A Journey's Start

From Lair of Sorrow

They say that every journey begins with the first step. This is the start of my photo journey, and I hope you will tag along. My photo web page and this blog are an attempt to go out of my comfort zone and give my life a little twist. Even though I have been involved in taking pictures for quite some time - more than a decade - I have never considered it a serious thing. Perhaps it is the time to change that.

There are several things I would like to achieve with this blog. First and foremost, I would like to share some insight into how my pictures are taken and edited. This behind the scenes of photography is something I think is much more needed than countless reviews of gear and other technicalities. I hope some of you, dear readers, will find this kind content useful - I plan to stay away from the hardware part of picture taking. A better camera does not make a better photographer - taking pictures will. I believe you can learn to think visually when taking pictures - you just need to practice it. By explaining my thinking process I hope to give you enough room to experiment on your own.

The second goal is - let me be honest here - to gradually shift the focus of my life from my current work into picture taking. That of course includes making money, but I am not a marketing person and I would not want to disturb the content with sales speeches. So, my plan is to allow the blog and the photos to speak for themselves. And if you are interested in me doing some work for you based on that, great. You know how to reach out to me.

Finally, I enjoy talking about what I do, even when nobody listens. Internet allows me to do just that. With all that said, let's move on to the photo. Up above you see a photo of a small human beginning their solitude journey into a mysterious forest by following a curvy path. We do not know what the forest hides, nor where the road leads. The little person walks calmly into the unknown, ready to accept whatever is to come. Who that child is, where is the forest or why is that kid here in the first place - this is all irrelevant. What is important is the journey itself, and all the feelings associated with it. What a fitting metaphor!

The picture started with a rather unimpressive take, but with a clear goal in mind. I wanted a low shot of the road, a typical mysterious-road-in-a-forest thing. Empty road, however, looked incredibly boring. It took a little waiting and this child showed up, leading the way for their family. I knew I have only a few seconds to take the photo before the rest of the family fills the frame and just ruins everything.

Raw image

This is how it looks straight from the camera. You may notice that the subject of the photo is almost ideally centred, there are quite a few distractions all over the place. For example, the rays of sun in the upper right corner.

The first thing I do is to crop the image. Most often I have an idea about how the frame should look like before taking it - but sometimes it does not happen until the images is uploaded and post-processing starts. This particular frame needed to be wide (meaning the width of the image is much greater than its height - not taken with a wide angle lens).

Step 1: crop

The reason for cropping the image first is that if I cannot find an interesting frame within the photo, then there is no time for me to work on the image further. I also try to figure out why the frame is useless and make a mental note to pay attention next time.

As you can see, wide cropping solves all the issues with distractions mentioned earlier, simply because the top and bottom of the picture went away. In addition to that, less focus is put on the child and more on the journey itself. This is simply because there is more space ahead of the child than it is behind them.

However, the image is still a bit messy. It is almost black and white, but when taking a closer look you can still see different shades of green, brown and blue. It all takes away the attention from the photo as a whole - I think the colours need to go as well. Since there is snow and forest, by looking at it we can pretty much guess what the colours should be anyway.

Step 2: Black and white

f you compare both images - with and without colours - you will notice they are almost identical, but the monochromatic version just feels more right. When looking at the image my focus keeps coming back from little details here and there to the overall scene - this does not happen with the coloured version.

The photo is almost done. You noticed that the image is dark and the snow is gray, rather than white. Of course, as everyone knows, shots in conditions like these tend to be underexposed. I almost never bother to compensate for that in the camera, as it is not that difficult to fix in post processing. As long as there are no areas that are completely dark (or completely blown out), it should be fine.

Step 3: Colour fixes

What happened here? This almost looks like a different photo. Exposure was boosted up, shadows were brightened up a bit and then I just toyed aroud with contrast and colours until it felt ok. No science here, just gut feeling.

One last thing added is vignette, to slightly dim the darker areas and the corners. This gives a nice finishing touch and in general makes the photo complete.

A Journey's Start

If you have read until this point, congratulations, and thank you. I hope to see you again for the making of of another picture - the journey has just started.