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Back To Work

Saxon Holt 995_0082 art photo
Raindrops on Miscanthus junceus after the rain


I first posted this picture to my Gardening Gone Wild post Depths of Perception 2 months ago as I began exploring my new vision after the vitrectomy.  At that time, despite the worries over my eye, I was giddy with new photos.  I couldn’t wait to get to work on those photos to really convey some sense of what I was seeing.

I have documented my setbacks elsewhere and will continue to update my previous post “Retinal Tears” and use it as a running web log.  But the whole reason to do the Mental Seeds blog was to explore new photos.  Now, back to work.

Back to work.  Can you call what I get accomplished work ?  It is agonizingly slow.  I lose inspiration.  I get frustrated beyond my ability to sit still with Photoshop.  I wonder why I even think this must be done.

Then I remember art.  I feel the pull of beauty.  I remember the inspiring book by Brooks Jensen “Letting Go of the Camera“, that gives me permission.  Distilling his advice: if you want to develop your art – do it.  Don’t talk about it.  Don’t say one day I will have a nice body of work.  Do it.  Learn.  Move on.

This project fell into my lap.  An excuse to do something new and unique.  How often do any of us, in any part of our lives, have this opportunity?  Some of the most adventuresome will put themselves in situations that allow unique insight or inspiration.  Some do crazy things and go to crazy places in the push to find something truly new.

I have never taken those chances.  I like the comfort of what comes easy; and recognize the blessings I have been given, the people I have stumbled upon, the graces of the universe that have allowed me to ride this river, enjoying the harmony of the middle, steering clear of shallows and snags.

As I floated down this wide river, never really wondering where it went, I watched the distant shore and sensed the wild.  I admired the beauty, but was never been quite brave enough to slip out of the boat, swim in the water, and seek that shore.  I drifted past tributaries that never quite compelled me to explore.

I never expected the boat to capsize.

Now I have a choice.  I still have my boat.  I am a good swimmer.  The water is welcome refreshment.  Perhaps the secret to creativity is found in the water itself, in the swimming.  Whether I reach the shore is not the goal.

The water is deep and the effort to swim is work.  And so is the effort to right the boat.  I am not getting anywhere by just clinging to the boat so my pragmatic compromise is to stay in the water, grab the tow line, and swim toward the beauty.

Back to work.  Mental seeds in are waiting to be planted in the explored lands ahead.

Photoshop is the work.  I don’t understand the ramifications of every move I make but I know the feeling I want bring out.  Each exploration leads to the next.  I won’t get there unless I try.

These posts are as much about learning Photoshop as they are about the progress of my vision as my eye heals.  The photos in this post took me two weeks to figure out.  It has been frustratingly slow to someone who expects to “complete” many photos in a day.  Now, these are finished.  Finished for now, I need to move on.  I will not permit the timid luxury of saying they will be better.

It is easy to play with Photoshop, cast oneself adrift in its infinite corridors.  But to use the tools for work one must be disciplined and adept.  These photos of Miscanthus junceus seen  in my garden after a November rainstorm use one of my favorite Artistic Filters – Drybrush.  After applying the filter I have erased and cloned various areas to allow the lines of the foliage and the raindrops on the leaves to remain as the reality of what I saw. (Before and after at the end of the post.)

My two eyes work differently now.  My one good eye forces me to see everything in 2 dimensions, just the way a camera renders a scene, but my blurry left eye fuzzes the boundaries.  I can’t really see that fuzziness because the good eye dominates my brain’s need for “normal” perception but I sense things are different – and it is beautiful in a new way to me.

I am struggling with how to portray this to others.  My vision lives in my brain and in the pixels of my photograph.  Those pixels need to be rendered in such a format that someone else can see them and begin to grasp what I am trying to say.  Is that format the computer screen ?  The print we can study in our hands ?  Or is the ultimate goal to display on the wall to be seen from across the room ?

Detail of raindrops on Miscanthus junceus

When using filters in Photoshop, the viewing distance and medium makes all the difference in the world.   Many of the filters have different settings and brush strokes.  The effect of those settings change depending on the image size.

When I began working on these photos, the horizontal version at the top of the post and the detail above was prepared for a large print using my Dry Brush settings 10-0-1 (brush size-detail-texture).  I realized you could hardly see the effect in a small version, as shrinking down the photo compressed the affect of the filter.  For the vertical photo I changed my Dry Brush settings to 3-10-1 which look pretty bizarre if enlarged much beyond the distance between me and my computer screen.

Saxon Holt photograph Rain drops on Miscanthus - vertical
Rain drops on Miscanthus junceus- vertical

Just click on the photo in the blog to see a larger size and begin to understand my predicament.  Which size is best?   Who is the audience ?  What is the “finished” photo?

In general I have always resented the small format I am forced to use with publishing.  Whether a book or a website, you can’t really see much in a complex photo (or garden) unless you can see it large.  I have managed to work in that size these many years and realize the pragmatic limitations of publishing.  I suppose part of whatever art I have achieved in those photos has been finding garden scenes that can hold up in a small size.

And with a traditional photograph, making it a large photo fit into a small space is a relatively strait-forward derivative file.   To make a large special effects photo look right in a small format is part of my current work.

It is downright fun to take the photos with such promise of revealing some new perceptions.  The work is learning the tools in order to show the essence to someone else.  Problem not solved yet, but time to move on to more photos.  It is gratifying to see progress.

This is where this photo started.

Saxon Holt photo 995_0083 uncorrected

Back to work.  More to learn.


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