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Site & Board Matters => About This Site => Topic started by: dreed on January 21, 2014, 10:35:23 AM

Title: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: dreed on January 21, 2014, 10:35:23 AM
Where is the other half of the essay that goes into depth on Hard Skills??
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: amolitor on January 21, 2014, 02:49:28 PM
Isn't that every single photography web site on the planet?
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Eric Myrvaagnes on January 21, 2014, 03:42:34 PM
Isn't that every single photography web site on the planet?

+10.
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Ben Rubinstein on January 22, 2014, 02:36:13 PM
I posted the essay up on the class facebook page for my photography students to read.
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: PeterAit on January 22, 2014, 03:55:28 PM
Where is the other half of the essay that goes into depth on Hard Skills??

Hard skills are the easy and relatively uninteresting part of photography. Anyone with half a brain and some money can figure out how to make technically excellent photos. It may take some time and effort, but there's no real challenge.
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: alainbriot on January 22, 2014, 05:58:46 PM
I posted the essay up on the class facebook page for my photography students to read.

Thank you Ben. Much appreciated.

Alain
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: MarcG19 on January 22, 2014, 07:21:04 PM
Alain,

Thank you very much for writing and posting this article.
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: NancyP on January 22, 2014, 07:48:54 PM
+1000. This article points out "the obvious" - but too many nerds people neglect the need for balance between development of technical skills and development of expressive skills and personal vision. Stop obsessing about MTF curves, and start looking around you for whatever tickles your visual fancy, whether in photography or in some other medium.

As a modestly skilled amateur photographer, I tend to pay a lot of attention to developing hard skills, but I try to look at other people's photographs, particularly in book form, and ask myself "like it? hate it? meh? why?".
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: DaveCurtis on January 23, 2014, 01:34:28 AM
Another interesting read Alan.
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: alainbriot on January 23, 2014, 04:40:23 AM
Thank you all.  I am pleased you enjoyed the essay.
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Christoph C. Feldhaim on January 23, 2014, 06:10:16 AM
I find the term "skill" for the so-called "soft skills" too narrow and somewhat misleading, though it is in general use. E.g. many people in jobs believe "soft skills", "emotional intelligence" or "social skills" is something like the ability to convince people, charm them or make them support your case. These people often like to read according training books how to become a better social manipulator or leader type.

But this is far, far below of what is actually needed in case of the sensitivity, attitude and  judgement required to do something deep, something that can have an impact and of course it touches imaging and arts in general. I find the term skill implies something that can be trained, and to some extent this is true, but only to some limited extent.

I find it's more something in the realm of long term development, including our character, our overall attitude towards life, the world and people and our moral / ethical integrity. Skills of various sorts surely are a part of it. But it's far more than a skill. Its much more difficult to develop,
far more a long term endeavour and much less plannable than anything else. It also falls into areas of life where we are much more predetermined by childhood development and our past in general than anywhere else. It is crucial we don't underestimate the time, patience, energy and personal committment required to develop. Basically "personality" or "character" is what actually describes it more correctly. The term "soft skills" does not really encompasses what it's all about. I also don't believe it can be tested ;).

Just saying ...

Cheers
~Chris
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Dave Millier on January 23, 2014, 01:12:22 PM
If we are talking about what it takes to "create" photographs, I suspect there is no single answer. I have loads of books on my shelf by a variety of photographers claiming to teach "style", "how to see" and "what makes a great photo".  I can't say I'm convinced by any of them although they're all worthy efforts. 

I reckon it is just down to individuals figuring out what works for them. For myself, I (now) take the view that as I appear (after decades) to have developed some kind of clear idea of what kind of pictures move me, I might as well just concentrate on making those kinds of photos and forgoing all the other possibilities. I'm shooting for my own satisfaction, it really doesn't matter whether anyone else likes them, trying to second guess what others will regard is "good" is a dead end. Nowadays, I just try and make the kind of pictures I like, concentrating on the subset of techniques needed and forgetting about all the hundred and one other ways a photo can be made and look. 

Reducing the options, narrowing the focus, not covering all the bases and concentrating on something seems to side step all the confusion and uncertainty that comes with too many options, too much possibility.  Bruce Percy has mentioned this kind of thing in some of his writings. Often you are better off with some kind of equipment limitation (a single prime lens,say) because the limitation of not having a bag of gear forces you to find a way of making pictures rather than merely hoping your massive gear bag will cover any opportunity. Having too many possibilities distracts and confuses even as you imagine you are equipped for anything.  Find a subject or style that moves you, shoot that thing and keep the gear simple enough that you have to think the photo into existence is my recipe. Looking at and collecting and surrounding yourself with the kind of shots you want to make helps with that narrowed focus too.



I find the term "skill" for the so-called "soft skills" too narrow and somewhat misleading, though it is in general use. E.g. many people in jobs believe "soft skills", "emotional intelligence" or "social skills" is something like the ability to convince people, charm them or make them support your case. These people often like to read according training books how to become a better social manipulator or leader type.

But this is far, far below of what is actually needed in case of the sensitivity, attitude and  judgement required to do something deep, something that can have an impact and of course it touches imaging and arts in general. I find the term skill implies something that can be trained, and to some extent this is true, but only to some limited extent.

I find it's more something in the realm of long term development, including our character, our overall attitude towards life, the world and people and our moral / ethical integrity. Skills of various sorts surely are a part of it. But it's far more than a skill. Its much more difficult to develop,
far more a long term endeavour and much less plannable than anything else. It also falls into areas of life where we are much more predetermined by childhood development and our past in general than anywhere else. It is crucial we don't underestimate the time, patience, energy and personal committment required to develop. Basically "personality" or "character" is what actually describes it more correctly. The term "soft skills" does not really encompasses what it's all about. I also don't believe it can be tested ;).

Just saying ...

Cheers
~Chris
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Christoph C. Feldhaim on January 23, 2014, 01:21:20 PM
Yes.
That's what I was trying to say:
It took you decades and a lot of trying, experience and lifetime to come to that point.
Thats far more than the term "soft skills" could describe.
Its tied to your personal long term effort and development.
Though all kinds of training, books, workshops etc. can help, of course.
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Rob C on January 23, 2014, 01:51:45 PM
If we are talking about what it takes to "create" photographs, I suspect there is no single answer. I have loads of books on my shelf by a variety of photographers claiming to teach "style", "how to see" and "what makes a great photo".  I can't say I'm convinced by any of them although they're all worthy efforts. 

I reckon it is just down to individuals figuring out what works for them. For myself, I (now) take the view that as I appear (after decades) to have developed some kind of clear idea of what kind of pictures move me, I might as well just concentrate on making those kinds of photos and forgoing all the other possibilities. I'm shooting for my own satisfaction, it really doesn't matter whether anyone else likes them, trying to second guess what others will regard is "good" is a dead end. Nowadays, I just try and make the kind of pictures I like, concentrating on the subset of techniques needed and forgetting about all the hundred and one other ways a photo can be made and look. 

Reducing the options, narrowing the focus, not covering all the bases and concentrating on something seems to side step all the confusion and uncertainty that comes with too many options, too much possibility.  Bruce Percy has mentioned this kind of thing in some of his writings. Often you are better off with some kind of equipment limitation (a single prime lens,say) because the limitation of not having a bag of gear forces you to find a way of making pictures rather than merely hoping your massive gear bag will cover any opportunity. Having too many possibilities distracts and confuses even as you imagine you are equipped for anything.  Find a subject or style that moves you, shoot that thing and keep the gear simple enough that you have to think the photo into existence is my recipe. Looking at and collecting and surrounding yourself with the kind of shots you want to make helps with that narrowed focus too.



That's pretty much what I have been advocating all along: sod the rest - do your own thing. It's as valid in pro life (possibly even more so) as in the amateur. And doing your own thing starts right at the start! Logical, no? (That's a rhetorical one - okay?) Once you have learned camera technique, which doesn't have to have you submitting to another's mindset, by the way, you are free to go out and do it, whatever it, for you, might be. Your photographic virginity of purpose is as fragile a gossamer as any other you'll ever come across. You lose it once, and then you're effed.

Rob C
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: NancyP on January 24, 2014, 05:26:40 PM
There's a local amateur photographer/entomologist  that takes the most amazing pictures of a particular family of insects, the Tiger Beetle family ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_beetle ). He knows their life cycle and habits, knows where to find them, and gets photos showing them in their native habitat doing what they normally do.

There's a better-known local-ish professional (Ph.D.) entomologist expert on army ants who has transitioned from being a very enthusiastic professor helping other entomologists gain the photographic skills to document field research, to being a part-time professor and most-of-the-time photographer giving insect photography and macro clinics to the public and leading insect photography tours. www.myrmecos.net academic, www.alexanderwild.com photography business.

Passion about a topic, and some knowledge about the topic, can be part of the "soft skills" and can help one focus on a specialty, in the above cases, insect macrophotography.

The three or so Missouri Dept of Conservation professional photographer/media specialist/educator individuals have their own specialities. One is an amateur astronomer (lucky for him he lives in a dark-ish sky area) and has for years taken "astro-landscape" photos, well before those photos became popular. Another is a bird and mammal specialist. One Conservation Dept photographer self-published a very detailed and very well photographed book on the prairie grouse family ( http://www.savethelastdancebook.com/  Some of the less-covered specialties are taken care of by amateurs or professors: herpetology, insects and spiders, etc.

When you learn to see something, you want to learn more about it, and the more you learn about it, the more you see the next time you go to photograph the subject.
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Isaac on January 28, 2014, 01:11:41 PM
I'm shooting for my own satisfaction, it really doesn't matter whether anyone else likes them...

In other words, photography as a hobby.

I think that's what photography is for many of us, but identifying as an Artist is so much more appealing ;-)


Nowadays, I just try and make the kind of pictures I like, concentrating on the subset of techniques needed and forgetting about all the hundred and one other ways a photo can be made and look.

Me too, but I think Alain's analysis is correct for me -- "The natural tendency is to focus on our strengths, ... We do this because it is enjoyable. ... However, while doing so is certainly enjoyable it is also short sighted.  ... engage in activities we find challenging in order to learn and to grow."
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: alainbriot on January 28, 2014, 03:05:54 PM
What matters is knowing what we want to achieve.  Anything we want and do not have yet, lies outside of our comfort zone.   If it was in our comfort zone, we would already have it.  We therefore have to leave our comfot zone to acquire it.  I spend a lot of time out of my comfort zone.
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Christoph C. Feldhaim on January 28, 2014, 03:22:55 PM
What matters is knowing what we want to achieve.  Anything we want and do not have yet, lies outside of our comfort zone.   If it was in our comfort zone, we would already have it.  We therefore have to leave our comfot zone to acquire it.  I spend a lot of time out of my comfort zone.

You are still suffering from the delusion of seeing yourself in control? ;)

Cheers
~Chris
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Rob C on January 29, 2014, 02:07:08 PM
You are still suffering from the delusion of seeing yourself in control? ;)

Cheers
~Chris


One never is entirely in control, Chris. At best, we discover early the pathway for ourselves.

Rob C
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Christoph C. Feldhaim on January 29, 2014, 02:18:02 PM

One never is entirely in control, Chris. At best, we discover early the pathway for ourselves.

Rob C

I believe skill is overrated, luck and guts underrated.
But its more flattering for the ego to believe the opposite.
Seeing ourselves as only partly being craftsmen and partly being a medium out of control helps opening new perspectives.

Cheers
~Chris
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: David Sutton on January 29, 2014, 09:07:10 PM
I believe skill is overrated, luck and guts underrated.
But its more flattering for the ego to believe the opposite.
Seeing ourselves as only partly being craftsmen and partly being a medium out of control helps opening new perspectives.

Cheers
~Chris
I wouldn't disagree with that Chris. But I see luck and guts as two of those "soft skills", or if you prefer, a matter of character. Some people seem make their own luck.
I would say "moving out of my comfort zone" is another term for giving up control. And I do realise that when I'm "in control" it's only a sort of pretence. At any rate, the whole control thing and emphasis on hard skills tends to slam shut an important door. Serendipity.
Good article Alain.
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Christoph C. Feldhaim on January 30, 2014, 01:07:22 AM
I wouldn't disagree with that Chris. But I see luck and guts as two of those "soft skills", or if you prefer, a matter of character. Some people seem make their own luck.
I would say "moving out of my comfort zone" is another term for giving up control. And I do realise that when I'm "in control" it's only a sort of pretence. At any rate, the whole control thing and emphasis on hard skills tends to slam shut an important door. Serendipity.
Good article Alain.

I agree.
To give up the ego requires a strong ego.
But its nothing we can really control.
That's why I don't call this a skill.
Its more an attitude or a trait that comes with time and might work or not in a given situation.
Training still is good, but this is something beyond mere training.
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: alainbriot on January 30, 2014, 02:08:55 AM
Good article Alain.

Thank you David.
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: dreed on January 30, 2014, 06:47:20 AM
I believe skill is overrated, luck and guts underrated.
But its more flattering for the ego to believe the opposite.
Seeing ourselves as only partly being craftsmen and partly being a medium out of control helps opening new perspectives.

Maybe, but often times a little bit of skill can help increase your chances of being lucky.

If luck were dominant then photography could be classified as gambling and I'm not sure you want to argue that.

As an example of skill influencing your luck - if you come to know how a particular weather forecast will influence the weather in a particular geographical region then going there to take a dramatic photograph becomes less about luck of being in the right place at the right time. Similarly, being able to read a map can make the difference to finding a good location by chance.
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Christoph C. Feldhaim on January 30, 2014, 07:32:50 AM
Maybe, but often times a little bit of skill can help increase your chances of being lucky.

If luck were dominant then photography could be classified as gambling and I'm not sure you want to argue that.

As an example of skill influencing your luck - if you come to know how a particular weather forecast will influence the weather in a particular geographical region then going there to take a dramatic photograph becomes less about luck of being in the right place at the right time. Similarly, being able to read a map can make the difference to finding a good location by chance.

I completely agree.
I also want to state I am generally against black and white thinking
and my post was not meant as a rejection of the meaning of skill.

My intention was to put something additional into the equation and put the meaning of skill into perspective.

Or, to communicate the idea more pointed, maybe even exaggerated:
Skills, be they hard or soft are tools, nothing more.
Where is the artist?

Cheers
~Chris
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Rob C on January 30, 2014, 08:42:49 AM
I completely agree.
I also want to state I am generally against black and white thinking
and my post was not meant as a rejection of the meaning of skill.

My intention was to put something additional into the equation and put the meaning of skill into perspective.

Or, to communicate the idea more pointed, maybe even exaggerated:
Skills, be they hard or soft are tools, nothing more.
Where is the artist?

Cheers
~Chris


Are you still talking about photography, or was the subject changed whilst I wasn't looking?

Rob C

Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Christoph C. Feldhaim on January 30, 2014, 09:02:42 AM
Are you still talking about photography, or was the subject changed whilst I wasn't looking?

Rob C

I have no clue.
Just trying.
What do you think?

Cheers
~Chris
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Rob C on January 30, 2014, 10:40:10 AM
I have no clue.
Just trying.
What do you think?

Cheers
~Chris


I'm lost, I think.

An artist has this compulsion - he just has to paint, sing, play his instrument, sculpt or create his art and it doesn't matter what the subject really is; for a photographer, I feel it's pretty much the other way around.

Deprive a snapper of subject, genre and purpose, and he has nothing to do. Not the same thing at all. As painter, one can sit down with the paint and just daub, and something comes out of it. You can hold a camera all day and nothing may come out of it. It usually doesn't. And there's the rub: it doesn't depend just on you, it depends on what's happening around you, over which you may or may not have any control.

You see the problem, then.

Rob C
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Christoph C. Feldhaim on January 30, 2014, 01:10:30 PM

I'm lost, I think.

An artist has this compulsion - he just has to paint, sing, play his instrument, sculpt or create his art and it doesn't matter what the subject really is; for a photographer, I feel it's pretty much the other way around.

Deprive a snapper of subject, genre and purpose, and he has nothing to do. Not the same thing at all. As painter, one can sit down with the paint and just daub, and something comes out of it. You can hold a camera all day and nothing may come out of it. It usually doesn't. And there's the rub: it doesn't depend just on you, it depends on what's happening around you, over which you may or may not have any control.

You see the problem, then.

Rob C


Yup - that's it - the stuff beyond anything skill-like.

For me it all comes down to something like "conditio humana".
The old questions found ubiquitous and in religions as well:
Where do we come from?
Why is there anything at all?
Who are we?
What is mind?
Where do we go to?
How shall we live?
What's our purpose in this world?
What's the purpose of life?

So - no one could tell me art doesn't matter.
And in my view true art somehow touches these questions - must touch these questions.
Beauty and aesthetics are a part of that and deeply connected to these.

Cheers
~Chris
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Dave (Isle of Skye) on January 31, 2014, 07:38:38 AM

I'm lost, I think.

An artist has this compulsion - he just has to paint, sing, play his instrument, sculpt or create his art and it doesn't matter what the subject really is; for a photographer, I feel it's pretty much the other way around.

Deprive a snapper of subject, genre and purpose, and he has nothing to do. Not the same thing at all. As painter, one can sit down with the paint and just daub, and something comes out of it. You can hold a camera all day and nothing may come out of it. It usually doesn't. And there's the rub: it doesn't depend just on you, it depends on what's happening around you, over which you may or may not have any control.

You see the problem, then.

Rob C

So, a blank canvas is not art until the painter chooses to randomly daub paint on to it and as painting is already accepted as being such a ‘High Art’, it can even be created without the need of “subject, genre or purpose”. Then if the artist does their damndest to make an exact copy of that work the very next day and then again the day after that, ad infinitum, then each and every one of those pieces may also be classed as art, because it has been created from nothing other than the desire of the artist to make something, anything.

At the start of the day I go out with a blank memory card in my camera, I come home at the end of the day with some arrangement of stored pixel data on that card, data that I nor anyone else could have foretold the exact placement of, or distribution or meaning of, nor can it ever be recreated anew in exactly the same way ever again, no matter how hard I or anyone else tries. Yet according to what you say, it can never be classed as art, even though it has been created from nothing other than my desire as a photographer to make something, because you tell us that I have in fact created nothing, or been creative in any way at all and so it can never be classed as art.

Rob, photography can definitely be a creative art, it is not simply the photocopying of reality, or shopping for pictures that already exist in some kind of alternate universe, that just hang there waiting for us to pluck out from thin air, as easily as plucking low hanging fruit from a tree.

We look, we see, we feel, we choose, we compose and as such, we are then able to create art based on this creative process.

Dave
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Rob C on January 31, 2014, 10:31:48 AM
1.  So, a blank canvas is not art until the painter chooses to randomly daub paint on to it and as painting is already accepted as being such a ‘High Art’, it can even be created without the need of “subject, genre or purpose”. Then if the artist does their damndest to make an exact copy of that work the very next day and then again the day after that, ad infinitum, then each and every one of those pieces may also be classed as art, because it has been created from nothing other than the desire of the artist to make something, anything.

2.  At the start of the day I go out with a blank memory card in my camera, I come home at the end of the day with some arrangement of stored pixel data on that card, data that I nor anyone else could have foretold the exact placement of, or distribution or meaning of, nor can it ever be recreated anew in exactly the same way ever again, no matter how hard I or anyone else tries. Yet according to what you say, it can never be classed as art, even though it has been created from nothing other than my desire as a photographer to make something, because you tell us that I have in fact created nothing, or been creative in any way at all and so it can never be classed as art.

3.  Rob, photography can definitely be a creative art, it is not simply the photocopying of reality, or shopping for pictures that already exist in some kind of alternate universe, that just hang there waiting for us to pluck out from thin air, as easily as plucking low hanging fruit from a tree.

We look, we see, we feel, we choose, we compose and as such, we are then able to create art based on this creative process.

Dave



Dave,

1. Why would any painter do that? Apart from anything else, it would put his work into the same doubtful category as digital printing. I was a painter - of sorts - before I had a camera; I've been through the passions of graphic creation and it's my feeling that though it can be a pleasant experience, more often than not it ends up a life-curse: one ends up concentrating on the wrong priorities to the high cost of everyone who depends upon one. Yes, money is a factor and success in either paint or photo-print creates its own momentum and reasons for continuing. The point I'm making, which apparently hasn't been really understood or well-made, is that creation, as in art, is a basic thing for a painter. Only with that will he be a painter. Of course, that doesn't guarantee that everything he creates is art - it usually won't be - but it is nonetheless a creative event because it starts from scratch.

2.  What you have described is visual editing. You are talking about selection, which isn't creation: it's choosing from what already exists. You may choose to describe that function as creation, which is your right, and though I find myself forced along similar paths post-retirement, I can't honestly consider what I do in that world as creative. How, then, can I be expected to dishonestly ascribe that quality to others doing essentially the same thing as I do? It wouldn't compute. Because the supreme lighting director in the sky has ordained that no cloud will appear in exactly the same space and in the same form ever again has nothing to do with the editor - the photographer - he just edits what's offered. That's not, and cannot be creation. That is skill, and a handful of photographers has far more than its fair share of that!

3. Oh absolutely! But unfortunately, not very often within most genres of photography. Where one depends purely on chance and external variables, that's what one reaps: chance happenings. On your list of offered services, you reveal only the possibilities: those are not tantamount to creativity; they are basically nothing more than what I've already said: editing what's existing there, in situ, and applying a management skill.

Look, it charms me not at all to feel that my current photography is fuelled by desire to create, a desire that can never be properly realised within the genres currently available to me. The most I can draw as consolation is that some images are testament to a reasonable eye; that in different circumstances I could rest assured that I could probably pick up where I left off, not because of anything wonderful I know, but simply because of the basic fact of my genetic structure, over which I had neither control nor say: I am what I am, and that's really just about it. Ditto everyone else. Wishing isn't enough. I've often wished I'd been a stockbroker instead; I'd have that bloody 25m yacht.

So what is creative photography? For me, it's partly in the putting together of disparate things that wouldn't normally be found so aligned; it's the creation of an atmosphere between two people (pick your size of group to suit) that results in something quite ephemeral that even the same group will never be able to recreate. It's catching that instant that proves the creativity actually was present within the moment. Without it, you just have another snap of the same person just standing there or, worse, just a pleasant memory of what might have been had you both been better prepared for your task.

A model session can be short or it can be long; you may catch the thing on the first roll or find yourself toiling along getting nowhere. You and your model may both be world-renowned, but take away the magic of interaction and all you get, at best, is technical perfection as devoid of creative spark as anything from anybody else. Look at the best sites from the best agents and snappers - what do you see? Some rare, high photographic art, and a much larger amount of technical pyrotechnics saying nothing. Especially do you see this in cosmetics work. Why?

Why? Because pro photography isn't much about art: pro photography is about product and selling. And amateur photography? At best, about relaxation and taking the mind off the workaday stresses. It's when that becomes confused with ego, art and the hope to turn it all into money that the pain begins. If you want to be an artist, it's probably because you are not one. If you are, it doesn't strike you in the same 'glamorous' way at all; possibly, you wish like hell you'd been born a business genius instead.

Rob C
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Rob C on January 31, 2014, 03:41:54 PM
That's the point, Keith: nobody should.

We should simply think what we want to think, and let the rest of the world roll merrily along. I really hope I don't get sucked into this theme again - whatever I believe, it's my opinion and nothing more nor less than that.

Rob C
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Christoph C. Feldhaim on January 31, 2014, 03:48:34 PM
Rob - we don't exist inside a vacuum.
What we think of is "I" or "me" is just an illusion - a concept we need to survive and stay oriented.
For the body we know - we come from earth and we return to it.
Similar with the mind - somehow.

So - IMO it's totally okay not to know why one wants to produce art, take photographs or whatever.
But you can be sure there's reasons for it and it's connected to the whole thing you're coming from.
Even if we don't know and can't express.

Maybe its just the cosmos being curious about itself ...
Who knows?

Cheers
~Chris
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Dave (Isle of Skye) on January 31, 2014, 03:55:32 PM
That's the point, Keith: nobody should.

We should simply think what we want to think, and let the rest of the world roll merrily along. I really hope I don't get sucked into this theme again - whatever I believe, it's my opinion and nothing more nor less than that.

Rob C

Oddly enough, I do not consider myself an artist, nor do I have any need or wish to ever assume that appellation, yet I do believe that on occasion, I have indeed been fortunate enough to have created art through my photography – yes I know, I am being a little oxymoronic here, but that is the only way I can truly describe my feelings about the whole ‘is photography a creative art’ question.

Art has always been the product of outside influences and stimuli, none of which any person or artist can have complete control over, just as I cannot have control over that cloud that chooses to linger over my shot. You are what you have felt, seen and done in your life and your work will always reflect that, in fact without these external and mostly uncontrolled influences and stimuli, we would all be blank canvases.

I am not saying you should change your view on the subject Rob, if that is your understanding of it then good for you, everyone should be allowed their own opinion based on how they see things. I just find it difficult to understand why you keep getting stuck on this self made tenet, that says if the photographer has not physically changed something within the scene directly, then they have not and can never be said to have been creative.

So, next time I create a landscape photograph, I will make a point of breaking the nearest blade of grass showing in the foreground of the shot, because that way even if the shot is unsuccessful, at least I can take comfort in the knowledge that I have created art, albeit unsuccessful art, because I will have directly influenced something within the shot.

Sorry Rob, I am not really trying to wind you up, I just think we are probably two sides of the same coin here and I wish you all the best.  ;)

Dave
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Rob C on February 01, 2014, 04:37:02 AM
Oddly enough, I do not consider myself an artist, nor do I have any need or wish to ever assume that appellation, yet I do believe that on occasion, I have indeed been fortunate enough to have created art through my photography – yes I know, I am being a little oxymoronic here, but that is the only way I can truly describe my feelings about the whole ‘is photography a creative art’ question.

Art has always been the product of outside influences and stimuli, none of which any person or artist can have complete control over, just as I cannot have control over that cloud that chooses to linger over my shot. You are what you have felt, seen and done in your life and your work will always reflect that, in fact without these external and mostly uncontrolled influences and stimuli, we would all be blank canvases.

I am not saying you should change your view on the subject Rob, if that is your understanding of it then good for you, everyone should be allowed their own opinion based on how they see things. I just find it difficult to understand why you keep getting stuck on this self made tenet, that says if the photographer has not physically changed something within the scene directly, then they have not and can never be said to have been creative.

So, next time I create a landscape photograph, I will make a point of breaking the nearest blade of grass showing in the foreground of the shot, because that way even if the shot is unsuccessful, at least I can take comfort in the knowledge that I have created art, albeit unsuccessful art, because I will have directly influenced something within the shot.

Sorry Rob, I am not really trying to wind you up, I just think we are probably two sides of the same coin here and I wish you all the best.  ;)

Dave


Better yet, Dave, would be to introduce a red sofa.There's precedent for that, thus legitimising the operation and giving it a certain street credibility through recognition, comfortingly depositing it within the safety net of genre.... However, a possible problem might arise if you later decide to clone out the sofa: would that remove the creative function of the original act or simply add a further dimension of demonstrated creative control and input? Of course, the latter would require the addition  of a caption outlining the fact of the removal along with an in-depth analysis of the method, whether via the pleasures provided by Adobe or another purveyor of magic. That would initiate immense interest in the work and open the door to great debate about relative merits of route. Hell, after the graphs, someone may even notice the picture, but I wouldn't bet the farm on that.

;-)

Rob C
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: Dave Millier on February 28, 2014, 06:47:14 PM
A month late, just catching up.

Bruce Percy has an article up on his blog about selection of focal lengths.  In it, he posits a useful rule of thumb theory:  in landscape work, choose the focal length that provides you with the size of background you want in your image; then use your feet to control the size of the foreground you want in your image (move closer or further away). Moving your feet will dramatically alter the apparent size of the foreground without effecting the background at all. Changing focal lengths will change the background without changing the foreground (as long as you move to keep it the right size). That little piece of advice seems to me to be more a more practical and effective tip for landscape photography than the volumes written on 'style' and other such nebulous matters (sorry Alain). 

But he is also indirectly demonstrating a point: there is more to it than passively recording what's out there.  You may think of photography as a helpless form of collecting photons but if you see an image as an arrangement of things in a frame, then that arrangement doesn't come ready made, the photographer makes artistic decisions in the field that truly determine what the result looks like.  As Bruce demonstrates in his article, it's perfectly possible to arrive at very similar framing in two shots but with very different emotional impact (big foreground bushes + big towering background mountains vs identical bushes and tiny miniature mountains). Skill + vision gives you two totally different results from the same material handed to you by the universe. I would say those kinds of in the field decisions does constitute art-making in action...



Better yet, Dave, would be to introduce a red sofa.There's precedent for that, thus legitimising the operation and giving it a certain street credibility through recognition, comfortingly depositing it within the safety net of genre.... However, a possible problem might arise if you later decide to clone out the sofa: would that remove the creative function of the original act or simply add a further dimension of demonstrated creative control and input? Of course, the latter would require the addition  of a caption outlining the fact of the removal along with an in-depth analysis of the method, whether via the pleasures provided by Adobe or another purveyor of magic. That would initiate immense interest in the work and open the door to great debate about relative merits of route. Hell, after the graphs, someone may even notice the picture, but I wouldn't bet the farm on that.

;-)

Rob C
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: alainbriot on March 18, 2014, 01:21:55 PM
A month late, just catching up.

Bruce Percy has an article up on his blog about selection of focal lengths.  In it, he posits a useful rule of thumb theory:  in landscape work, choose the focal length that provides you with the size of background you want in your image; then use your feet to control the size of the foreground you want in your image (move closer or further away). Moving your feet will dramatically alter the apparent size of the foreground without effecting the background at all. Changing focal lengths will change the background without changing the foreground (as long as you move to keep it the right size). That little piece of advice seems to me to be more a more practical and effective tip for landscape photography than the volumes written on 'style' and other such nebulous matters (sorry Alain).  

But he is also indirectly demonstrating a point: there is more to it than passively recording what's out there.  You may think of photography as a helpless form of collecting photons but if you see an image as an arrangement of things in a frame, then that arrangement doesn't come ready made, the photographer makes artistic decisions in the field that truly determine what the result looks like.  As Bruce demonstrates in his article, it's perfectly possible to arrive at very similar framing in two shots but with very different emotional impact (big foreground bushes + big towering background mountains vs identical bushes and tiny miniature mountains). Skill + vision gives you two totally different results from the same material handed to you by the universe. I would say those kinds of in the field decisions does constitute art-making in action...

Hi Dave,

This is a good point but I covered this, as well as many other aspects of composition, in my first book Mastering Landscape Photography (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1933952067/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1933952067&linkCode=as2&tag=alabri-20). The purpose of my current series on Vision is to explore new horizons and possibilities for creating original photographs.

Alain
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: darr on March 21, 2014, 07:59:37 AM

I'm lost, I think.

An artist has this compulsion - he just has to paint, sing, play his instrument, sculpt or create his art and it doesn't matter what the subject really is; for a photographer, I feel it's pretty much the other way around.

Deprive a snapper of subject, genre and purpose, and he has nothing to do. Not the same thing at all. As painter, one can sit down with the paint and just daub, and something comes out of it. You can hold a camera all day and nothing may come out of it. It usually doesn't. And there's the rub: it doesn't depend just on you, it depends on what's happening around you, over which you may or may not have any control.

You see the problem, then.

Rob C

It sounds like you are addressing environmental/landscape photographers? I shoot a lot in the studio and find the studio backdrop to be a blank canvas. I started my career as an illustrator and graphic designer and approach photography in a lot of ways I attribute to my art education. I later went to commercial photography school for food/product studies using a 4x5" and chromes, and find the only difference between creating art on media like paper/canvas/surface and creating art on film/digital back, to be the tools. The idea or purpose for my work is still the same with each set of tools, a visual presentation.
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: alainbriot on March 22, 2014, 01:30:44 PM
It sounds like you are addressing environmental/landscape photographers? I shoot a lot in the studio and find the studio backdrop to be a blank canvas. I started my career as an illustrator and graphic designer and approach photography in a lot of ways I attribute to my art education. I later went to commercial photography school for food/product studies using a 4x5" and chromes, and find the only difference between creating art on media like paper/canvas/surface and creating art on film/digital back, to be the tools. The idea or purpose for my work is still the same with each set of tools, a visual presentation.

I agree with Darr.  I also rely on my art education (Paris Academie des Beaux Arts) and I don't see much of a difference between photography and painting/drawing either. Furthermore, now that we can modify just about everything in Photoshop I approach the original capture as a point of departure.
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: barryfitzgerald on March 25, 2014, 06:32:43 PM
Well I banned myself from using ND grads and CPL filters for scenic work. I also took an oath never to take a foggy/misty water shot
Why?

Well that path is well trodden, big time
Some might say it's limiting, but then I think you are pushing yourself more when you restrict things
Plenty of prime only shooters that take "one lens" out for the days shoot, to focus themselves on the subject and not worry about a bag full or lenses.

Sometimes you can have too much. Neither approach is wrong, it's what works for you
If everyone started wearing red tomorrow, naturally I'd want to wear blue  :o
Title: Re: Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Post by: hjulenissen on March 25, 2014, 06:45:18 PM
Passion about a topic, and some knowledge about the topic, can be part of the "soft skills" and can help one focus on a specialty, in the above cases, insect macrophotography.
But the cases that you quoted could just as easily be seen as "hard skills"? I don't get this artificial divide between "knowing your tools" and "having an interest in a topic that can somehow lead to great photographs". Both can be used for good or bad. Defining good and bad in photography is difficult.

People do whatever they want. If they find happiness in interpreting MTF-graphs, then great for them. Perhaps this helps them advance their images, or they end up inventing some new useful photography tool. History is full of "nerds" that went all in towards some goal and ended up producing great art, great science, or some other goal, possibly neglecting their family and friends in the process. A (probably larger) group of people spent their life and career pursuing some goal that did not (at least yet) matter much.

-h