John Harvey Photo

Learn Giving Up
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Why bother making it look good.

I've been to art school, and I don't mind admitting, I enjoyed it.  Unlike engineering, there are no grades, attendance matters, and copying is encouraged.  I am always surprised how strong and monotonous my art style comes out in my projects, but it's a big world out there when it comes to art style.  Excellent artists (Annie Leibovitz comes to mind) have a huge gamut of styles they can execute well in.  This is a gallery of images I've taken that I disagree with - images that I think are technically poor, but still (and much to my annoyance) are nice to look at it or are otherwise compelling.

Don't worry about lens flare

Lens flare is a well understood problem.  When something gets on the front element, it causes a point light source that softens the image, and can cause other aberrations.  So put your camera in an underwater case, cover the front lens with salt water and let it dry in the sun for a while.  The lens flare is massive and the water drops actually bend the image.

Any image with this much flare should be garbage, but in this case it gives you a sense of just how warm it was to be out on the water - it makes you want to reach for your sun glasses.

Who cares what color that was supposed to be.

Moon Jellies Near Surface
Lets face it, the ocean in Northern BC is not normally cyan.  Good pictures aren't supposed to have vignetting at all - especially in just two corners.  And who puts jellyfish and clouds together?

That said, it does convey the emotion of watching jellyfish from a Kayak on a warm summer afternoon.

No one needs Red, Green AND Blue.

Red Chicken
It was awfully greedy of photographers to go from monochrome to three channel color in one step - lets catch up the missing step.  For that matter, who really needs three dimension lighting?  The sun has been our point light source since time eternal.

If you look at the image large enough to see what's actually there, it's actually sharp, in focus and follows most of the standard composition rules (eyes on a third, catch light etc).  It's just the color space (there is zero blue light coming from the heat lamp and the heat lamp is effectively the only light source) is weird.  Must be pretty weird for these chickens to go outside and discover a whole new color they have never seen before.

No, really, you weren't supposed to see anything there

Long Exposure Porpoise
Most people like something sharp to look at - it gives them the sense that their eyes work correctly.  Try watching a whale flirt with your bow and leave because you are going to slow, and then express that on film.

A camera's ability to freeze a precise instant of time is unnatural.  For me, this image is representative of the experience - there is sharpness in the water splashes, but not in the boat or the whale.  For you, it's a reason to type something else in your browser bar.

Camera on tripod, tripod on nothing.

Knocked Over Tripod
Just because your camera is firmly mounted to the tripod doesn't mean the tripod is firmly connected to anything.  In this particular example I was taking photos at night when a couple walking down the path were about to step on my camera.  The camera was taking a 15 second exposure and I had to pick the camera up before the shutter closed or it would get stepped on.

Even sharp, this image is abstract.  (Those are tea lights in cut sections of bamboo)  With motion, the abstract really becomes disconnected from reality and you get to see what you want to see.

Panning.  Panning.  Hey, where did you go?

Deer Running In Field
Panning works best when you are shooting something moving in a relatively straight direction in a relatively predictable way for a relatively short period of time.  I was trying to take photos of deer in low light (1 second exposures) with a long lens and the deer were having nothing of it.

Unfortunately, the contrast isn't quite up to standard.  The black background and well lit grass take the panning well and provide a good canvas to paint the deer, but the deer is moving just a bit too fast - where he dwelled you can see a ghost.

Ghosting in Lens?  So what.

Reflected Flare
Lenses fail in a number of ways.  Ghosting occurs when light reflects inside the lens.  This reflection occurs for a number of reasons - uncoated lenses are more likely to flare and bright spots (unpainted internal surfaces) add brightness.  Sadly, the most common reason for flares and ghosts is dirt on the lens surfaces - preventable by a little bit of cleaning.  If the scene has uniform brightness (like your sunny family photo on the grass) ghosting is in a the noise floor.  If your scene is painfully contrasty (like fire against the night sky) ghosts gets bright enough that you can see them.

Convolution with a diagonal line yields

Shaky Sunset Boating
Motion Blur takes on a number of different forms.  Minor motion blur (perhaps 2 / focal length) is an annoyance - a reminder that you really should have used a tripod.  When your shutter speed gets down to the near second range, your images take on another quality - convolution.  The trace of the motion of your hand becomes a significant part of the image.

In this case you can pretty clearly see what I was trying to take a photo of, but because of the motion blur you can't see any single detail with clarity.  The water was moving quite quickly and the glints of the sunset provided detail not integrated in the hand motion.  Total freak image, but satisfying.

90% out of focus, all outside of the thirds

Looking Up At Cage
In general, I'm a big fan of looking through the viewfinder before you take the photo.  In this case I held the camera up in roughly the right direction and took a photo.  The resulting photo is terribly from a classical composition point of view - any of the meaningful content is out of the 1/3rds and the thing the eye is meant to focus on (the bird cage) is mostly out of the frame.

I think this photo works for a number of reasons.  First, the cage is shiny which makes it high contrast which attracts your eye to it, more so that the tiny bird in the cage (which you can't see) would.  Second, the woman is rendered strangely - looking small, tucked into the bottom corner - that you want to know what she is looking at.  Beyond the camera being unnaturally high (2+ meters in the air), we are on a ramp which has foreshortened the scene and given her a forced perspective.

I didn't look through the viewfinder before taking the photo so I really can't claim credit.

Three different images, one photo

Self Portrait With Nara Looking At Penguins
I have a really hard time taking photos at the Vancouver Aquarium.  You want a photo of your kid enjoying themselves, learning something and seeing an animal.  Try not to dwell on the caged animal.  The problem is that you rarely get to take a photo of both your kid and at the same time what they are looking at without taking a photo of the back of their head.

It was a cold morning with lots of fog.  The exhibit was in shadow so the brighter sky behind me actually overwhelmed the primary image.  The water was quite flat so it acted as a mirror, furthering the effect.  You can see the penguins but you can't really see the camera I am using to take the photo.

This is such an unusual set of coincidences, there is no way you could casually reconstruct this type of image on demand - no skill is learned in seeing this photo.

Reflected Flare
Tags: fire, flare, long exposure, performance
Knocked Over Tripod
Tags: abstract, bamboo, candlelight, Japan, night
Long Exposure Porpoise
Tags: abstract, wave, whale
Red Chicken
Tags: abstract, chicken, farm animal, monochromatic
Shaky Sunset Boating
Altitude: 2m (6 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: abstract, long exposure, Vietnam
Location: Go To...
Tags: abstract, coast, flare
Self Portrait With Nara Looking At Penguins
Tags: portrait, reflection, Vancouver Aquarium
Deer Running In Field
Tags: abstract, long exposure
Moon Jellies Near Surface
Species: Aurelia aurita (moon jelly)
Tags: abstract, jellyfish, vignetting
Looking Up At Cage
Tags: Hong Kong, market
Tags: abstract(7), long exposure(3), flare(2), farm animal(1), monochromatic(1), chicken(1)
From: John Harvey Photo > Learn Photography > Learn Giving Up

hahaha, out of the box, its like breaking the rules (if there's any)
Wednesday, August 6th, 2008 at 03:21:42

that last photo made me lose all respect for you i can't believe that you would even post that. It's an abomination in the world of photography. You have no soul.
Friday, October 31st, 2008 at 11:26:43

Cool! A dissenting opinion! As I say in the title: "images that I think are technically poor, but still (and much to my annoyance) are nice to look at it or otherwise compelling". I actually like this image because it reminds me of one of my favorite paintings by Monet: "Houses of Parliament, Effect of Sunlight in the Fog". But each their own.
John Harvey
Saturday, November 1st, 2008 at 19:17:26

Respond to taylor: Your comment reminded me of criticising the expressionists in art history. When are we going to learn to leave the clich├ęs?
Saturday, January 17th, 2009 at 00:34:05

Now, that is cool! I've never thought about doing that sort of thing...I won't be deleting as many pics anymore. Love the pics.

Monday, November 16th, 2009 at 10:20:18

Thank you for posting that last photo. It's good to see that even a high caliber professional can produce something bad now and again. But seriously, thank you for the tips section since I have been following them I have noticed a massive amount of improvement in my technique.
Monday, November 8th, 2010 at 02:30:21

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