Sunday, January 19

An Editor's Challenge

Bill Birch in one ingenious artist. You can check out his fearless experimenting here. The TME Community  has a cool forum where artists challenge others by posting images for visitors to augment and enhance, not so much as a contest but, well, think of it as cardio exercise for your creative chops.

Anyway, Bill recently posted this grab shot (Image 1) for the fun and fortune of his fans….

(Image 1) 

On the up side there's a lot of color, it's level, it's got a vanishing point at the end of that path, and there's some action in that flirty skirt. But of course he gave us no real center of interest or more specifically, there is a school of piranha-like distractions nibbling chunks of attention away. Moreover the absolutely flat exposure doesn't allow contrast to reinforce any central topic.Bill obviously meant to tease us with  an undistinguished, technically correct snapshot, right? 

Hmmmm….. Now this is fun. First we need to do major surgery on the southern, western, and eastern quintiles of this thing. They add nothing to the story and distract from it. And then there's that space between the two women. Why? Well, why should we care? And the act of caring about the size of, and what's in that gap is another distraction that's reinforced by the cluttering details between them. So that's got to go as well. Finally the dynamic range, as I already wrote is relatively flat. it gives us no  hints about the relative contributions of the various elements of the feelings or ideas of the artist. 

Bill apparently wanted us to make those decisions… to tell our stories. Which brings me to the first surgery (Image 2) incorporating the three elements of cropping, altering the relationship between the two women, and then enhancing the dynamic range to emphasize the composition of an autumn Sunday In The Park.

(Image 2) 

I see the two couples as the main topics but the flirty skirted lady as the relative lead character. Which first called for multiple compositioning tactics, here Bill allowed us to both use the Rule of Thirds AND Vanishing Point compositioning down that pathway. Consequently I've muted the palette around the leading lady and emphasized that skirt. I've also thrown the remaining distractions like the grass, distant trees clutter between the foreground couple, the right hand tree bark, and other details beyond the dog walkers,  out of focus. However, while the dog walking couple was originally beyond the depth of field of Bill's capture, I enhanced their pallet and dynamic range to make them an important element of the image's mood. They are clearly an abstract statement regarding the "parky-ness" of this moment. Right?

Now that I have the elements composed both in position and in relative focus/dynamics/palette I'm off to (Image 3)

(Image 3)

My feeling is that this is now a kind of metaphor for Sundays In The Park. Or better yet, what I wanted to achieve was an archetype… an image that spoke a universal language about Sundays, parks, relationships, and summer. One that would swirl into every viewer's feelings. Not a stereotype or cliché but a feeling about every Sunday In The Park as opposed to this specific one. See I wanted to make this tangible specific moment into an abstract feeling without losing the actual actors. See now how colors are now more pools? And the lighting's a tad blurrier… a bit more in motion? See how details are rendered in strokes of color? This was my final objective. But then it occurred to me that there was another, not necessarily better, but equally useful way of expressing this feeling… So I created (Image 4)

(Image 4) 

Thinking about the way the great impressionists translated reality into expressions of mood… I recalled seeing the powerful work of say, Edward Manet and his name doppelganber Claude Monet. and how they employed brush strokes of color to suggest feelings for the viewer to build upon. Stopping short of their minimization of details, I went halfway to leave sufficient sharpness to retain a photographic impression, then set to stroking away details which stole from the story of the flirty-skirted heroine of this poem. Oh. and I muted the vibrance and saturation to decrease the "computer" sensation that frequently, overly-brilliant Photoshopped, images seem to have, and I warmed the palette to reinforce a summer-afternoon glow. Now my attention is drawn to her, the breeze, her body language, and the freedom we feel or remember - even if we've never actually done… Sunday In The Park.

Y'think? Thanks Bill. The exercise was intriguing. Hope my approach is sensible.

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