Changes!

You might have noticed that the site looks a little different. I changed the wordpress theme because the old one was too narrow for my tastes. I like to share my pictures in a relatively large resolution (800 pixels wide, for landscape shots), which was wider than the column of text in the old theme. This is part of a larger effort to improve the aesthetics of my corner of the internet, and perhaps unify my two sites. Over the last two days, I also put some pretty significant effort into revamping my photo website.

The remainder of this post is going to be rather off my usual topic, but it may foreshadow the direction I intend to go in the future. On the other hand, it might just be a few ideas that are itching to get out that will subside after I write this.

First, I’m going to say a few words about copyright, and the particular licensing I use on my photos. First of all, any photo that I take is my property, and, by default, I reserve all rights to it. That means that almost any use of it is prohibited without my written permission. I find that restrictive and stifling. If I was getting paid (or intended to sell) my work, I might feel differently. However, as a complete amateur, I’d rather allow some use of my photos, by default. So, I license them under one of the Creative Commons licenses. The particular license I use allows for non-commercial use (including derivatives) as long as you give me credit. The main thing I’m trying to block is other people making money off of my work. That seems unfair, especially since I’m not getting any money for it myself. Otherwise, I don’t much care what people do.

You may have noticed that I’ve been much less prolific with my photos this year. Which is odd, given that I came down with two to three times as much photo gear. However, I’ve been relatively frustrated with my photography recently.

At some point, I decided that my photos were missing something. I was getting the technical aspects right, in the way I wanted them, but the content was lacking. In short, I was displeased with my composition skills.

Technically decent, but boring
There certainly have been photos that I’ve been very pleased with (the one to the right, for example). Granted the auroras are pretty, but the overall image is relatively boring. This particular picture would have benefited from an interesting foreground, possibly something that ran parallel to the central aurora stripe (as it turns out, the flag pole that was about 10 feet behind me would have worked quite nicely). Most of the pictures I was particularly happy with came about through sheer luck. Recently, I’ve been trying to think about the composition before pressing the shutter release, and I’m finally starting to get some decent results. Here are a few examples:


This photo was taken at the open mic night after our midwinter celebration. I particularly like this one because the lights have nicely highlighted the people. The background had the decency to remain either dark or unlit. Getting that focus on my subjects has been hard for me, because real life tends to be cluttered. If I remember correctly, I actually darkened the background in post-processing to help the effect along.


This is another shot where I got lucky (although the version that is exactly what I intended worked out pretty well, too). In order to take this self-portrait, I had to set up my camera on a tripod, and then set it to take a long series of pictures. I then walked into the frame. For this picture, I walked into the frame about halfway through the exposure. The railing in front of me was partially exposed, before my body covered it.


On this one, I was slightly less lucky, but the fore ground is interesting enough to hold the image together (barely). I wish the auroras had been slightly higher, and in a place where they would show through the structure better.

My satellite connection is about to go down, so I have to conclude quickly. I’m beginning to see composition elements in my photos before I take them. This is a good thing, but it does slow me down. It’s particularly difficult in this environment- carefully positioning a camera on a tripod can be quite difficult with three layers of mittens. Nonetheless, you’re going to start seeing more carefully thought out photos. You’ll probably see more posts that are not South Pole-centric, or do not involve the South Pole at all. 30 seconds to post!

3 thoughts on “Changes!

  1. Nicholas,

    Excellent discussion which actually helped me to understand myself and my work. You commented, “content was lacking” and that explained it. When I write, I spend a lot of time on flow, ideas, organization, with the reader in mind. When I photograph, I don’t have that in mind at all, *except* when I am photographing in support of my writing. In that case, the photograph is an extension of my writing and I take the same care in flow, ideas and organization. I even include jokes in the photographs, propping up the technical object of my photographs with silly toys, or using a slogan as a backdrop. This post clarifies that I have to have clear intent when photograph if I want something good.

    -a

  2. Photo composition is hard. You’re making great progress though! I love that last photo–I actually think the low aurora works really well, especially on the left side where the structure thingamabob almost perfectly frames the aurora. And it looks like the structure thingamajiggy is kind of dividing the frame between low aurora and starry sky, but not so severely as to be forced!

    P.S. Love the new aesthetics! Especially on your SmugMug (link is broken, by the way–also this link in your SmugMug: “You can read a little bit about my work (and find a link to my blog) HERE.”)

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