Archive for the 'aesthetics' Category

23
Jul
08

shadows

As you may have noticed, indoor lighting (especially industrial/corporate lighting) rarely makes things look good.  For a long time, I believed the marketing hype of the light bulb makers that this was due to the light’s color temperature – that if I used (more expensive) bulbs designed to simulate the Sun’s spectrum, I’d get better photos, and things would look better in general.

But now, I don’t see light temperature as the problem.  Instead, I think the problems with indoor lighting and photography mostly stem from a lack of shadows and contrast.  Lights designed to make sure everything is well lit prevent anything from being hidden or masked.  This makes photos inherently less interesting, because everything looks more bland.  Using a cooler light bulb won’t solve the fundamental problem!

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29
Oct
07

filler

Over the last couple of years, my primary instruments have drifted to steel guitar and hand percussion, rather than straight acoustic/electric guitar. I’ve also become much more active in group performance, rather than solo.  This means that I’m often taking a supportive and decorative role, playing fills.

There’s a real art to playing good fills.  The goal is not for the fills themselves to be interesting, but rather to decorate and enhance the primary voice of the performance – the singer, other soloists, the rhythm, whatever is central to the music.  So it’s important to contrast the primary voice, rather than competing with it.  Play in the gaps.  And don’t overplay! This can be a real challenge as an improvisor… resisting the temptation to play too much. 

I find it difficult sometimes to fill the gaps rather than playing along with the melody.  That’s because when we hear the song, we hear the melody.  As improvisors, that’s where we hear ourselves.  But if that’s what you DO when playing fills, then you’re probably overplaying.

Phrasing and coloration become very important, too.  Do you want to extend the harmony and rhythm, or reinforce it?  And voicing matters… you should play in a range that is not competing tonally with more solidly rhythmic instruments.

And, uh… when I started writing this I thought I had a point.  But I guess I’m just dancing about architecture.  Sigh.

01
Oct
07

The perfect is the enemy of the good

This is another motto that’s been on my mind much lately (albiet mostly in political contexts).  It’s all over art, and is one of the curses of G.A.S.   If you get too caught up in trying to be perfect, you lose track of simply being good.  It can actually PREVENT productivity… worrying that it’s not perfect is a perfect excuse for hiding your work away, from others and from yourself.

12
Sep
07

Faron laughing

[[Faron laughing]]

Testing from Flickr a second time… (I like this photo because it really captures one of my daughter’s characteristic expressions, how she squints her eyes shut when she laughs.  I’m not so sure about the soft-focus effect I put around it… I’m not a fan of Photoshopping (well, Picasa-ing) in general, and this is perhaps why)

12
Sep
07

rule of thumb

NOBODY looks good in photos when they’re eating.  Take pictures of people with food, and expect to throw them out like last week’s leftovers.

11
Sep
07

doing, not being

Revisiting an idea from my earlier post called Choosing the Subject, I realize that I prefer to photograph people who are actually doing something.  Although formal portraiture can be quite moving, I’m by no means a studio photographer, and have very little interest in it.  I want to photograph people in context.  Often, the context is an event – a dance, a wedding, a party, a concert.  When people in such contexts become aware they’re being photographed, they’ll often “pose”.  They’ll stop what they’re doing, and try to plaster on a smile, or a serious face, or try to look cool.  The effect is that they decontextualize themselves.  They’re reacting to the camera, not the world.  It looks artificial, and is one of the leading causes of bad family photos (along with poor lighting). 

The only solution I’ve found is to be a sneak.  I don’t hide my camera, but I do photograph without permission, and I stick to unobtrusive techniques – no flash, no beeps, no large lenses, mechanically quiet cameras.

My daughter snapped this photo of me and her mother.  It’s not my photo, but it’s a good example of what I’m talking about here. The emphasis is not on us, but on the activity – in this case, a loving kiss. As she is a good sneak photographer, we didn’t know she was taking this.

yuletime kiss

07
Sep
07

polish

I just remixed the Late November song “Blue Frogs from Mars”, applying some much-needed reverb. The reverb came from the excellent freeware SIR Reverb, an impulse reverb system. Rather than synthesizing a space as digital reverbs usually do, it works from a recorded sound impulse of a real space (or a digital reverb, or anything else). I also applied some eq to the vocals, and a bit of other processing. Certainly, there’s still improvement to be had, but the results so far are interesting.

Here’s the remixed version

And here’s the old, dry version