Sunday, 31 January 2010

A question about fine art answered

I got a question from a photography student just starting a module on fine art photography. Basically asking me what I thought was meant by fine art and why it applies to my work.

Thanks for your question, Dan...

My answer

Hi Dan,

To me, fine art is all about trying to say something specific with your artistic vision -- sometimes it's called artistic intent. Some folks may have a whole series exploring their vision / intent until they have come up with their final piece that represents it. For some, the series is the piece.

It's not really important if others understand all of your intent, though. An example; in this one:
http://www.highton-ridley.co.uk/blog/2010/01/during-melt-on-dartmoor.html my intent was to represent the harshness of Dartmoor and the fact that, in minutes, the weather can change from clear to can't-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face.
There's all sorts in the image that speaks of both. The local and global contrast; no snow apart from in the lee of the walls; soft sky; the granite wall - you don't get much harsher than granite. Angle-iron: harsh; clear fields, sharp, pointy tor. Cultivated fields, impossible-to-cultivate tor. The composition - the finger of wall pointing straight at the tor; no subtlety there. 
Yes, context helps but I think the image stands alone without knowing Dartmoor.
Dan went on to say he couldn't see what Tracy Emin's bed was all about and this was my reply:
Re: Tracy Emin's bed - I think it's self-serving (i.e. pretty much a "self-fulfilling prophecy"). I dont think it's so much about the visual impact, it's all about what the various scattered items represent in terms of her life experience associated with them. By self-serving I mean that if it wasn't by her, people wouldn't look beyond the rather crappy visual impact to what lies beyond. 
That piece of "fine art" lies almostly entirely in the associations it triggers in the viewer and not in the "prettiness" of the image. Not really aimed at the average punter but at the cognoscenti who "know" where to look for the artistic intent; i.e. they know the context. 
A stark example of what I mean. Imagine a really, really, famous artist with instantly recognisabe, say, paintings. They produce an empty canvas. The congoscenti might say "Oh, they were going through an "xyz" time in their relationship with their public and lover. The emptiness of the canvas represents... blah, blah, blah." 
Here, context is everything and, if you don't know the context, it's just a blank canvas. For me, this isn't fine art; for me, there has to be enough of merit that it can stand on its own without context. Knowing the context adds more, but it must be able to stand alone. 
All my opinion and not necessarily having any bearing on other's reality.

I hope my views help you develop your own, whether you agree with mine or not ;)
Cheers,
  Mark


Wikipedia says of Fine Art Photography:
Fine art photography refers to photographs that are created to fulfill the creative vision of the artist. Fine art photography stands in contrast to photojournalism and commercial photography. Photojournalism provides visual support for stories, mainly in the print media. Fine art photography is created primarily as an expression of the artist’s vision, but has also been important in advancing certain causes. The work of Ansel Adams in Yosemite and Yellowstone provides an example. Adams is one of the most widely recognized fine art photographers of the 20th century, and was an avid promoter of conservation. While his primary focus was on photography as art, his work raised public awareness of the beauty of the Sierra Nevada and helped to build political support for their protection.
I'm really interested to hear what other people think of fine art and context. Over to you :)

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Wowee! I made it as a nominee in the 5th Annual Spider B&W Awards!!

I was dumbfounded to find out I made it to nominee status in the 5th Annual Spider B&W Awards!!

Haystack and Tracks

I'm over the moon about it because the winners get chosen from the "nominees". Here is the image, it got chosen for the Nature category:


Haystack and Tracks

...and here is the Spider Awards page it's on.

I didn't get chosen as a winner though :( so that means I just got pipped at the post! but who cares? A nominee! Woohoo!!

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Another from Dartmoor in thaw

Another fresh out of my digital darkroom

On the road out of Princetown

This was the approach road to the shot I posted the other day. I'm standing in a lay-by with the last of the snow. What remains is to be found only in the lee of the granite walls that lazily zig-zag across the moors here.



Merrivale Tor Approach, Nr Princetown, Dartmoor

I'm stood right next to a big pile of dirty snow that was probably cleared off the road, judging by the amount of gravel in it. The jumble of rocks atop the hill in the distance is Merrivale Tor and Princetown is a few miles behind me as I took the shot.

I'm an image tart...

I must admit to bringing my image-tart approach to bear on this one. Only small changes but they had a big impact. So what am I confessing to? I cloned out an aerial on the house, a signpost at the end of the road and, horror of horrors I extended the left hand wall a little at the end to close off the left hand turn there. Why?

The aerial and the signpost were signs of the outside world and I wanted to emphasise the isolation of the place—if you go there you'll know what I mean about its isolation.

As for extending the wall on the left hand edge; the road comes to a t-junction and the walls curve left and right. Unfortunately, even though it was very small, the curve of the left turn and the lighter road surface took the eye out of the shot to the left.

By extending the curve of the left hand wall, instead the eye gets pushed back in to where I want it to go. A typical journey through the shot probably follows the lead-in lines, lingers on the puddle of meltwater and sky's reflection, follows the snow/wall, hits the road, gets curved in again to the small house and then on to the tor.

Which is nice because that's just what I wanted, each major feature visited by the eye in turn :)

Contrast masking

I learned a new technique earlier today that I used for (one of the layers on) this image. Many thanks to Peter Cox for his informative tutorial on contrast masking, a technique brought over from the days of the wet darkroom. In short - take a copy of the background layer (on your out-of-the-camera shot in Photoshop), desaturate the new layer, change the blend mode to overlay, invert it, apply huge radius Gaussian Blur, done :)


comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Saturday, 23 January 2010

A Dartmoor pony in the wild

As promised a few posts ago [@Shadow: happy now? :-)]

Dartmoor in thaw

Here's a shot of a Dartmoor pony in the wild, taken on my recent trip up onto Dartmoor.

These ponies run free for most of the year and, even though considered "wild", they still belong to the various farmers on the moors. Every year they have a foal roundup and allot the new foals to the correct herds/farms.


Dartmoor Pony in the wild

Lighting conditions were difficult in this shot. It was during the start of the thaw from all the recent snow in the UK and the air had a very clear crisp quality. In the bright sunlight, even though the sun was quite low in the sky, it lead to very contrasty shooting conditions for black and white, too much even for my tastes—besides, it was in all the wrong places!

So, I finally did battle in the digital darkroom and eventually (after two sessions!!) tamed and bent the lighting to my will. I hope you like the finished shot :)

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Friday, 22 January 2010

Life on Tharsis

A warm as toast abstract this time. What is it? Answers on a postcard please....

Life on Tharsis

I had a fanciful exploration in my inner vision today. In it I ventured onto Mars and followed the landscape to a mountainous region called Tharsis.
Approaching from the southern plains, I could see a series of plateaus extending as far as the eye could see. And I could see they were dotted by strange patches of light. My curiosity at such a sight pulled me on faster and, as I got closer, just in the lee of the first, the soft glow resolved itself into this strange vista.


Life on Tharsis

At first I couldn't believe my eyes. I'd found a strange form of brachoid life growing within small islets of light. By some freakish effect unique to this area, the very slow lava flows become capped by a semi-transparent glassy mineral and are veined through by a latticework of dark bands.

The brachoids only seemed to be growing where the illumination from the hot bubbling lava below was brightest, and even then, only in well-defined small areas such as this one.


Where did you go in your inner vision today?

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

I made some sales through my Zazzle store

I'm finding the creative work on Zazzle rewarding, almost in it's own right and, bonus, I make sales, too!

It's not always my fine art that sells...

Here are some of my sales in the last few days, not a black and white / art photo amongst them!

My sales pitch...

All are customisable with your own words / pictures. See how easy it is to do on my Zazzle store: HightonRidley

I've got lots of blank cards with a selection of my artwork ready for your own message, have a look and let me know what you think. ...And for kids you might like gifts and cards from my Spudpeeps range.

If you're the type who likes to say the extra special things on a greetings card, you should probably see my Thinking of You, Thank You and Inspirational ranges.
I've even got a Gothic range, for those whose tastes tend that way. And if you're a romantic at heart, see everything with traditional poetry.

If you like what you see, you'll probably want to spread the word and tell friends and relatives alike, I'm sure. Folks do like to hear personal recommendations because there's so much dross and so many scams around—so help them out and let them know.
Go on, right now - strike while the iron's hot!  :) If you twitter, then click the tweet button, or maybe you do lots with stumbleupon - click the Stumble It button. It all helps, so thanks in advance!!

Own a piece of my affordable artwork

...on something useful. Remember, the very best of my shots are available on items to suit all pockets. If you find an image in my galleries you like, there'll be a panel next to it showing all items available with that image. I know that many, many of my followers really like my work, and if you are one of them, you'll find something affordable to own, whether t-shirt, postercard or mug.

I love to read your feedback and you can be sure I take it into account as my art progresses...

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

During the melt on Dartmoor

Here's another one that worked out ok from my outing onto Dartmoor the other day... what do you think?

Merrivale Tor

Just up the road from Princetown I spotted this opportunity. I was looking for shots that captured a bit of the winter character of Dartmoor and so I had my "shot radar" working overtime. I spotted this scene developing as I drove, luckily their was a stopping place just round the corner from where my radar first started "pinging".


Merrivale Tor on Dartmoor, near Princetown

I tried a few different points of view and this is one that worked out well, I thought. How about you?

When I saw how it combined the tor, open moor and granite walls, snowy in their lee, I thought this was the one to go for. Dartmoor in winter can be so harsh—and that's when the weather's pleasant! So "harsh" is what I wanted to emphasise with the shot, which I hope I've achieved.

And typical of the real, non-postcardy view of the world that I prefer, it was good to see some jury rigged fencing, together with some nameless metal-tubing thingy, carelessly cast off to one side—being "stored outside" in farmer parlance!

It was quite a difficult shot to tame in the digital darkroom and I had a couple of false starts. Finally I hit on a method that brought out the image with the impact and visual qualities that first grabbed my attention.
What do you think?

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Sunday, 17 January 2010

I apologise in advance...

...for the birthday card verse I wrote—it's a right groaner (you can avoid it by reading no further!)

From a Pretty Pink Princess to her Mummy

(or Mommy)

I love my Mummy because...
She helps me play dress-up, I get to use makeup,
We giggle and laugh a lot.
She chooses the dresses, the shoeses and tresses,
And ties up my hair in a knot.

She's now my hand-maiden, with eyes of black raven,
And maybe a hint of a witch,
In dreamland at Camelot, I rule and I'm Queen a lot,
With Mummy to see there's no hitch!

Copyright 2010 HightonRidley

What did you think of my cheek, rhyming "shoeses" with "chooses" and "Queen a lot" with "Camelot"? Anyway, here's the card I wrote it for:


And while I'm on about my Zazzle store, I did another Potato Patch character - Spudpeep Paddy, who is the first aider there. If any of the other Spudpeeps have an accident, he sorts out any cuts, bumps and bruises.



You may now punish me in the comments for my dreadful rhyming!

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The snow is retreating

Here's another shot from my trip to the moors the other day.

It's all melting

A little frost was left in the areas sheltered from the worst of the snow. A little way off you can see the snow still lying in the more exposed spots.


River on Lee Moor

This was taken heading from Cornwood up towards Lee Moor. It's quite typical of the rivers of the moors here in Devon when they pass through a fold or contour of land. This gives the shelter that allows the trees to grow in the otherwise exposed, inhospitable landscape of the wind-swept moors.

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Thursday, 14 January 2010

On the margins of Dartmoor

I've been struggling against something in the last couple of months—I think it's been a desire to hibernate—but finally managed to get out with my camera today.

Waiting for...

I've been waiting for the weather to clear enough to let me get up into Dartmoor safely, while at the same time wanting enough snow to attempt some wintry captures.

Approaching Lee Moor from Cornwood

I was quite surprised to find that where I expected there to be lots of snow on the margins of the moors, only the sheltered spots seem to be retaining snow. On top of that, the weather forecasts have been pretty poor—when we were told to expect more snow, instead we got melting sunshine, pah!

Ok, I haven't yet got up into the moors proper, so maybe tomorrow. There's a definite margin/snow line as it gets more exposed heading up onto Dartmoor so I'll cross that on the next outing and see what possibilities that reveals. I'm hoping the Dartmoor Ponies will somehow feature.

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Sunday, 3 January 2010

A group shot in the potato patch

I think this was their New Year Party!

Spudpeep Group Shot



Here's the Spudpeep folk so far, hanging out in a corner of the Potato Patch where they live.
From left to right we have Spudgirl Daisy, Spudman Yeehaw! and Spudpeep Bounce.
I think Yeehaw likes Daisy. What do you think?

See the kids gear, gifts and cards they appear on over on my Zazzle Store

If you leave a reply, do you mind being both brave and honest? If that's ok, rate them on a cuteness scale of 1-10, ten being puppy-cute and one being "stick to photography"!!

comments / feedback always welcome and actively sought :)

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