10 levels of a photographer…

So, I got a bunch of flak from folks at the dpchallenge.com site which I’d joined recently and voted on some photos entered for a competition. The subject was “What is this Pencil?” – essentially, photographs wherein a pencil was in use, but not as a writing implement. My average vote for the 110 photos was 3.3 – this is a very low average score and most folks seem to have a considerably higher average voting score. I wasn’t trying to be harsh / mean. I just used the entire range of the rating available. After the results of the voting were published, I noticed that most folks voted in the 4-7 range. I fail to understand the point of having a range of 1-10, but people using only some subset of that. Doesn’t it simply skew the results?

Anyhoo, one of the members, Rina, messaged me, very nicely, that the flak was probably due to the low average score which reeked of trolling. Since the message had a very warm tone to it, it was appropriate that I explain my rating system. And so I did. Below is my response to Rina from which the 10 levels of a photographer can be gleaned:

Hey Rina,

Thanks for the email. I appreciate the warmth greatly. I primarily see photography as a form of art. As with any art form, one needs to transcend the medium to go from being a technician to an artist. Mastery of fundamentals is an essential first step in the journey of transformation into an artist.

The pencil challenge is the first one that I decided to cast my votes for. Based on generally high quality of images entered in challenges, I arrived at the view that a fair portion of the images that were entered in this particular challenge were below average.

The chopsticks idea is an obvious one – so, of course there were multiple photos that showcased it. But some did it well and others not so well.

Perhaps I’m missing something, but images that stand out for poor photography technique should not be entered in a competition. By technique, I’m talking about some very basic things like focus, depth of field, shadowing due to light sources, color levels, appropriate cropping without losing bits of the image, etc. Those images that were lacking in the basics are the ones that I reserved my scores of 2 and 3 for. I only rated a handful of photos as 1, since they were essentially just plain jarring / ugly / lacking taste – not just for serious technical deficiencies.

4 and 5 are the average photos – ones that don’t cause me to barf coz they have the basics down pat, but to which I probably wouldn’t give a second glance were I to see them anywhere else.

6 is for those photos where the photographer begins to show signs of no longer being restricted by the camera – the rudimentary signs of art start to become evident.

7 & 8 – here’s where the photographer really starts to escape the medium and is starting to express him-/her- self well. The person is mostly an artist but the mind is still yet not completely unfettered by the medium.

9 & 10 – there is no subject, there is no camera, there is no photographer. There is only art.

Thanks again for your email. It has given me the opportunity to clarify (even to myself) my criteria for rating photos.

I think I’m going to post my rating system to my DPC profile.

Cheers,
Vijay
p.s. I consider myself to be at a level 4 or 5 for the most part and with occasional sparks of inspiration (1 in every couple of hundred photos), I manage to reach a level 6. No false humility here, but I suspect that the highest I will ever get to in my life (and very seldom) is a 7 – probably not 8. 9 and 10 are out of my reach. Se la vie. 🙂

DPChallenge <message@dpchallenge.com>  to me
 show details  6:51 pm (2 hours ago)
DPChallenge user rinac has sent you the following private message:Hiya Vijay and welcome to DPC!

Just thought I’d drop you a line to say that most folk here are really nice, and if you get some slack initially, it’s just a defence mechanism 🙂 Your average vote cast is 3.3 and that tends to ring all the “troll” alarm bells, if you know what I mean.

Hey, if you need help with anything, feel free to get in touch.

Happy commenting!
Cheers,
Rina.

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Finally got some photos for Fall 2007

IMG_3898 IMG_3900 IMG_3905 IMG_3947

IMG_3922 IMG_3928 IMG_3934

IMG_3936 IMG_3950 

My brief trip last week to the Microsoft campus didn’t yield much. Partly my fault for not taking the whole kit-n-kaboodle with me. I just had the 24-105 with me. Saturday’s attempts (in the yard) yielded better results.

I met up with Kappu-Jay Saturday evening. They had a couple of other guests over. One of them reminded me of Meghana – a lot. No, she didn’t look like her, but her style of talking was very similar to Meg’s. If not an ABCD (American Born Confused Desi), she’s spent a good chunk of her life here. When she introduced herself, I heard her name as “Sudhna” – turns out it’s Suguna. Her compression of the -gu- syllable made it sound like -dh-. This is not unlike the “Theeeenk yew” that most (female?) teenyboppers say instead of “Thank you”. Her use of Tamil terms sounded a bit odd, in a funny sort of way and she was quite verbose about the time she spent in Italy while we were watching pix of Kappu-Jay’s recent Italy trip. Kappu had made something she called Paal Pongal, which tasted pretty much like Paal Payasam to me. Suguna managed to get the name confused as Paal Halwa about an hour later. Kappu’s sambar was not up to par – in addition to needing salt, it seemed to be missing something else. Suguna thought it was good – I was thinking, “If that’s good sambar in your book, you don’t know what sambar is.” I suspect Meg, Mohi, Ananth and the other kids of my next generation will end up a bit like Suguna; Meg is already showing signs of it. It’s not a bad thing or a good thing – just different.

Sunday was mostly spent at Karthik’s place – pretty quick turnaround time in getting back to being social w/ the single folks; he’s been married for about a month now. They’d woken up a bit late, eleven-ish, and so my arrival at 1 pm rather than noon as originally planned worked out well. Sharada was about a third of the way through lunch prep and it was fun chatting, snacking and yanking her chain while Karthik attended to the onerous task of browsing the web and making digital camera recommendations (for his brother?). By the time we got around to eating lunch, it was past 3 pm. Lunch was good. Dosai, coconut chutney, potato-onion sabzi, something like masala vadai but without pepper corns and jeera rice. Yum. There was lots of photography talk going on. Sharada seemed a tad more keen on the subject than Karthik.

I’m about 1/3rd of the way through “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I didn’t realize he was a big cheese. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 – not that the Nobel Prize would influence me one way or the other, considering that awards seem to be handed out to undeserving folks (at least in my opinion, e.g. the Booker prize to Arundhati Roy). Look out for my review coming later this week.

The things that grow in my backyard…

Lake Hills backyard

I was really surprised to see the rose bush in my backyard flowering. I was under the impression that it was dead and gone, but the maple tree falling down during the winter storm must’ve done something good for the plant. Either it stopped sucking up all the nutrients and / or the rotting roots are providing good fertilizer. I had to spend quite a bit of time getting used to the close-up lens (Canon 500D) which I affixed in front of the daddy and the extension tube. An hour later I had 365 photos of roses, daisies and dandelions to parse and process. Did that this morning.