Hongqiao nightscape – a second look

Hongqaio, night copyright Douglas Stockdale 2008

Sometimes I find that I get into a mode in which I assume what I see is what is ‘really’ there versus paying attention to what is actually there. Case in point is the night landscape, above, that I made many years ago in China and for some dang reason, I keep thinking that the left top of the building with the lights is horizontal and perpendicular to the ground, so I had adjusted the photograph accordingly. Well I finally realized that it is not a true horizontal line and this one of those aspects, like editing text, sometimes you see what you want to see and not what is there.

In this case I should have been paying attention to the vertical line of light going up the center of the building, probably an edge of the building. I was considering a call for art about contemporary landscape and this was one of the images in my final cut. But as I had not looked at this image for a while, when I did a quick glance at the JPEG, I realized that the building was leaning slightly towards the right. Huh? Impossible! So I want back to the original file, opened it in RAW, did my tweaks, including ‘straightening’ it, keying off the vertical line and OMG, I had been incorrectly looking at and tweaking this photograph for the better part of twelve years. Well crap. I guess fortunately I had not sold any of these prints and the book-dummy I have in process with this photograph now needs an update.

Fortunately, the resulting photograph was not that far off center and I am not going share the incorrectly straightened photograph either, as it now needs to remain out of sight. It is a reminder to pay close attention to what you are looking at. Something I did when making darkroom prints is to have the negative in the enlarger ‘upside down’, which was can get very visually confusing (you all that work with view cameras get bonus points). This was a neat trick recommended by Betty Edwards in her well known book Drawing on the Right Side of Your Mind (unfortunately not read by many photographers). Get the creative right side of the brain engaged to over come the ‘logic’ of the left side. I will still flip my test prints upside down on occasion, or while doing a print critique, but I guess not as often as I should. Lessons learned, eh?

Regarding this long exposure photograph, what had intrigued me was the blurred motion of the cars on the elevated roadway in the foreground in contrast with the static and sharply delineated buildings. Especially as the car and roadway lights did the classic ‘S’ curve out towards the horizon. Right now I can’t recall if I made this at late dusk or the early morning light, but I suspect it was in the early evening.




Book workshop:

I will be leading a Creative Photo Book workshop with the Southeast Center of Photography (SEC4P) later in the Fall of this year. This will be a virtual event on Zoom; November 6 & 7th and 13 & 14th, 2021, 10 AM – 1 PM, EDT (3 hour session each day, with a week between the weekend sessions to work your book-dummy). Registration is now open, and there is a SEC4P membership discount. Just advised that it is SOLD OUT & wait-list has been started. Let me know if you have any questions!

Developing a Creative Photo Book, a virtual (Zoom) workshop I will be leading again in conjunction with Medium Photo with New dates: March 5 – 6, 12 – 13, 2022 More details and sign-up available now at Medium Photo.


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