One of the benefits of the ViewBug site is that you have a multitude of other photographers’ galleries all in one place, allowing you to benchmark your own work and also seek inspiration.
Amongst the thousands of impressive images you can see themes emerging, and a couple of these drew my attention for varying reasons.
Let’s start with the positive. Sunflowers.
Forever associated with Van Gogh these bright objects are a very popular choice, and I can see why; they score in terms of both colour and texture, the spiky bracts that frame the golden petals being as worth of attention as the flowers themselves, a fact demonstrated by the fact that one of my favourite examples is a single bloom shot in monochrome against a black background. The texture of leaves and stem contrast strongly with the delicate petals.
The second theme that I’ve noticed is one that I’ll call painted landscapes. The first examples, shot in Tuscany I believe, were breathtaking; soft rolling hills that seemed to glow where touched by a setting sun. The trouble is that I seen this green luminosity so many times since that I no longer believe in its authenticity. The contrast between light and shade has been pushed too far. Polish photographer Marcin Sobas is one exponent; I’ll let you judge whether you like the effect or not.
The upshot of all of this is that I decided to shoot some sunflowers of my own. No black background or studio lighting so my first attempts were naturally shallow in focus, but with the addition of some flash bounced from the ceiling I was also able to get some sharper examples. They were nice but not really impressive – here they are before processing.
With both shots I applied some layers of texture and gradient fills to lessen the impact of the backgrounds and give them a feel of being more artistic (if not exactly in the Van Gogh bracket). This is a technique I’ve used for a number of years, but after reading Sarah Gardner’s book Art Beyond the Lens I’m using it in different ways. I’m not endorsing the book; there were only a couple of chapters that gave me anything new so I don’t consider it to be good value, but I’m glad to have had my thinking challenged.
So I now had some more interesting shots, but the greenery of the second reminded me of those rolling hills again. I boosted the contrast accordingly and applied some green light. Does that make me a hypocrite? I hope it’s obvious to the viewer that this image is intended to be an aesthetic piece rather than an accurate portrayal. Perhaps that’s also the intent of the hill painters; I just don’t see it that way.