When the going gets tough ...

Discussion in 'Digital Cameras' started by Dudley Hanks, Dec 17, 2009.

  1. Dudley Hanks

    Dudley Hanks Guest

    Dudley Hanks, Dec 17, 2009
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  2. Scary dog! 8^)
    I had dinner with a fine, friendly pooch yesterday (I'm not generally
    a dog lover, but this 9-year-old-as-of-yesterday bee-yoo-ti-ful,
    friendly yellow lab seeing-eye dog was a gem!). I kept track of his
    location for his owner while he ate (and I got George's food and drinks
    for him at the crowded buffet dinner). "Cringle" got MUCH attention
    from many there, and he appeared to like it, even rolling over onto his
    back for a rub with the harness and handle still on (although normally
    a seeing eye dog should not be petted, etc. while the "gear" is in place,
    since that indicates to the dog that he is in "working" mode - but the
    owner broke the rules for the Christmas dinner...;-).
    David Ruether, Dec 17, 2009
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  3. Dudley Hanks

    Dudley Hanks Guest

    Actually, looks are deceiving ... Mich is a real teddy bear; I've never
    had a shepherd who likes to cuddle as much as he does. The pic doesn't do
    his personality justice...

    The "rule" about not petting a guide dog is also a bit deceiving --
    depending largely on what school the dog graduated from.

    AT GDB, how the dog is to be treated varies a bit from dog to dog, resulting
    a bit from how focused the dog is, and what breed it is.

    In the case of shepherds, petting is, of course, discouraged when the dog is
    actually guiding, but there isn't a problem if the handler is standing or
    sitting around, even if the dog is in harness. Hence, I generally allow
    people to give Mich a pet when we're riding on a bus, waiting at bus stops
    etc, or seated in a restaurant.

    When you're working with shepherds, the dog can become protective if it does
    not have contact with others, so getting attention from the public helps the
    dog remain properly socialized.

    And, of course, we wouldn't want Mich to go Cujo, would we?

    Take Care,
    Dudley Hanks, Dec 17, 2009
  4. Dudley Hanks

    NameHere Guest

    Only if he'd attack your camera.
    NameHere, Dec 18, 2009
  5. Ah...! 8^)
    Nope! And, thanks for the info. BTW, I forgot to mention that I
    have a "service" cat of sorts...;-) She normally is not cuddly at all,
    and she is far from being a lap cat - but when I'm having an episode
    of being "out", she often jumps on top of me and stands on my side
    until I start to come out of it. Weird...;-) Others can take a look at
    this small 16-year-old, at -- www.donferrario.com/ruether.
    David Ruether, Dec 18, 2009
  6. Dudley Hanks

    Dudley Hanks Guest

    Ah, we're making progress ... gone from semi-valid critiques of pics to
    out-and-out character assasination?

    If you can't find anything worth your time to criticize about the image,
    I'll take it as a thumbs up...

    Take Care,
    Dudley Hanks, Dec 19, 2009
  7. I generally am not afraid of dogs or cats, after all both have been our pets
    (when I say "our" I mean mankind) for thousands of years, and it really
    takes effort to be attacked by any pet (and in any case they are not as
    dangerous as wolfs or tigers, that's why they are domesticated).
    Tzortzakakis Dimitrios, Dec 19, 2009
  8. Dudley Hanks

    MikeWhy Guest

    If you really must... It's most of a dog's head with a lolling tongue, half
    framed entering a field of featureless and uninteresting black, with the
    foreground highlights blown to pure white by the harsh flat lighting of an
    improperly set in-axis on camera flash. There is no context for the photo,
    and I call it a photo only for lack of a different word to describe
    something that evidently came out a camera. No evident thought went into the
    creation of the image other than "take a picture of Mich as he walks by!",
    which you *still* managed to not do, as simple a mandate as that was. The
    composition is for shit; the technical merits ended with opening the box the
    camera came in and finding the on switch. If you're looking for art, give a
    child a crayon and instruct her to draw a dog's head with a lolling tongue.
    Whatever she hands back will, guaranteed, be more frameworthy. I can't
    possibly imagine what comments you can be seeking. (In smaller words: thumbs
    down. Try harder.)
    MikeWhy, Dec 20, 2009
  9. Dudley Hanks

    Dudley Hanks Guest

    Well, you're off on a few things...

    First of all, Mich wasn't walking by. He was working in harness, and I took
    the pic with one hand while we were working down a sidewalk. This means I
    had to crouch down beside Mich as we were walking along. Given the speed
    Mich and I travel, it would be tough enough for a sighted person to crouch
    down beside him and take a pic, try it when you have to worry about tripping
    over chunks of snow you can't see, and doing your best to offset the pull of
    a 100 lb. dog straining the harness in your other hand. Try it sometime,
    you might find it tougher than you think.

    Next, I'm not sure what highlights your saying are blown to white, but if
    you're referring to the lighter patches of Mich's fur, well, they're pretty
    much white. He's an odd coloured Shepherd, very bleached in the "tan" areas
    and sable / grey in the "black" saddle area.

    You say there's no context for the photo, but you're ignoring the context:
    a guide dog guiding a blind person. Thus, the black background is highly
    appropriate. It symbolizes the trust the handler places in his dog guide,
    the dark unknown which only the dog can see into.

    Mich's tongue isn't just lolling. It's a habit he has when he's
    concentrating on his duties. In fact, the habit was so pronounced during
    training his lips got quite chapped and we had to give him extra affirmation
    in order to get him to relax. Thus, it is quite proper to include in a
    portrait of him.

    The reason you see nothing is you're mind is set against my work, so you
    can't relate to it. You have decided a blind person can't produce visual
    art, so your mind facilitates your biased attitude.

    In short, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, it is in the mind, as is
    intolerance and jealousy.

    What I wanted to do with this shot is to symbolize the teamwork of a guide
    dog / human partnership.

    The dog handles the visual part of the relationship, hence the dog is what
    is visible. People see the dog, and they appreciate the work that it does,
    but most have a rather simplistic appreciation of the dogs work. They don't
    understand the high degree of stress and strain the dog must cope with in
    order to fulfill his / her part of the partnership. They have a more
    pastoral, stylized image of the typical, angelic guide dog. I wanted my
    portrayal to be somewhat more stark / frank.

    On the other hand, the handler is completely aware of the dog, every subtle
    nuance of the dog's movements, vocalizations and enthusiasm (as conveyed to
    the handler through the harness handle). But, the world outside that
    partnership is completely out of view to the blind person, as is the blind
    person to the general public. The public focuses on the dog and doesn't
    normally place much emphasis on the human half of the team.

    The most visible part of the team is the dog.

    If parts of the dog are somewhat too bright, it is both appropriate to the
    message being conveyed, and is one of the hazards of trying to take a pic on
    the street, using the light from a single, on-camera flash being held at the
    dog's level.

    Once again, the reason you have trouble with my work is that you cannot
    place yourself within the context of my situation. A very thoughtful art
    instructor once told me that a successful artist always leaves a piece of
    himself in every work he produces. I think it's safe to say that there is a
    large chunk of both myself and Mich in this shot.

    Take Care,
    Dudley Hanks, Dec 20, 2009
  10. Dudley Hanks

    MikeWhy Guest

    I see. So your photo was an image of your blindness and handicap, not of a
    dog. Again, I fail to see the message you wished to convey. Again, thumbs
    down, and do try harder. You do yourself a misjustice by excusing yourself
    so easily by miscontruing your instructor's remark. Good luck to you.
    MikeWhy, Dec 20, 2009
  11. Dudley Hanks

    Dudley Hanks Guest

    This is the problem: to you, a photograph is just a photograph, nothing
    more, nothing less.

    You don't have enough creative / abstract thought to appreciate the message,
    just the pixels.

    This is why you don't post; you don't have enough imagination to create,
    nor the cognitive cabability to understand.

    Must be rough...

    Take Care,
    Dudley Hanks, Dec 20, 2009
  12. Dudley Hanks

    MikeWhy Guest

    So, the image is of the surrounding blackness, not the dog's head and
    harness that dominates its foreground. Still, my criticism stands. The fault
    lies not with the viewer who doesn't understand. It lies with the artist's
    inability to project his message. You haven't succeeded yet in defining a
    new visual metaphor for blindness. In fact, you're still very far away.
    MikeWhy, Dec 20, 2009
  13. Thanks for a "neat" post. It reminded me of a lesson I used to teach
    in my photo course at Wells College too long ago...;-) I would show
    a B&W photo of a lemon on a black background with a wide white
    border and ask the class what it was that I was holding in my hand.
    The response from everyone was the expected, "a lemon". Next I had
    students describe in detail as many features of the "lemon" as they
    could, and I would write the 30-35 or so that resulted (sometimes
    with a little prompting...;-) on the blackboard as a list. This list would
    include things like shape, weight, color, thickness, etc. I would then
    bring out a real lemon and ask for a corresponding description of it
    and write that list next to the original list. NOTHING in the two lists
    corresponded, AT ALL! 8^). So then I would go back to the original
    "lemon" and ask what it was. The conclusion was that it was a photograph
    of a lemon - a VERY imperfect copy of a lemon that merely suggested
    characteristics of a lemon, and also that the photograph was not just the
    part that reminded one of a lemon, but the WHOLE image, including the
    "background" (named that although all parts of the photo were essentially
    in the same plane, without true "foreground" or "background"), forming a
    graphic entity...;-) This may be somewhat counter to what you were
    saying about your photograph - but there are several different valid ways
    to consider what a photographic image is, and therefore what sorts of
    information or communication it may contain...
    David Ruether, Dec 20, 2009
  14. Dudley Hanks

    Dudley Hanks Guest

    Nope, you still haven't gotten it ...

    Firstly, I'm not trying to define a "visual metaphore" for blindness. Since
    blindness is the absence of vision, a visual metaphor is somewhat
    inappropriate. Even closing your eyes or just picturing blackness isn't the
    same, or even a metaphore. The point I keep making, that "Beauty is in the
    mind of the beholder, not the eye" should point you towards my opinion of
    sight: it's a mind thing. Black is the absence of colour, not the absence
    of sight.

    With that in mind, perhaps you can understand I was not focusing on the
    blackness, nor on Mich, in my image. The image is a "composition," meaning
    that there are several components to view, and all must be appreciated in
    order to get the impression I wanted to convey.

    First, is the blackness. It is most prevalent, so it sets the tone. It
    highlights the other components, exaggerating their prominance and
    importance. The darkness is there to illustrate the world the blind pass
    through, and to signify the lack of understanding the general public has of
    the partnership formed between the guide dog and its handler.

    The lack of understanding the public has of this teamwork is something the
    blind dog handler copes with every time he / she takes her dog for a walk

    "How does your dog know where to go?" "Isn't it great how they can train
    dogs to read traffic signals ... " etc

    These are questions blind handlers answer on a daily basis, all of which
    assume the dog is the one with the brains, and the blind person is just
    along for the ride. After all, it's generally known that if a blind person
    tries to lead another, when the blind tries to lead the blind, disaster

    Hence, the blackness sets the stage by removing the blind person from the
    picture, and by pushing the dog to the foreground, effectively exaggerating
    it's dominance, while simultaneously pulling it out of the public's more
    idealic / pastoral preferred setting.

    Because the sighted viewer has only the dog to look at, minus all of the
    distracting details of the normal day-to-day world, the viewer is forced to
    see the dog's expression, one of concentration, even strain.

    These dog's work hard. They don't just wander down the road pulling some
    blind goof behind. They watch for hazards on the ground, in the air, coming
    up from behind, and especially from nearby roads. They contend with loose
    or stray pets, with wandering children, and all kinds of environmental
    hazards. All the while monitoring the handler for signals, both audible and

    In this case, Mich and I were walking down sidewalks that had recently been
    clogged by one of the nastiest blizzards in Alberta's history. At one
    point, Edmonton recorded the second coldest temperature ON THE PLANET. Most
    of the sidewalks had been roughly cleared, but there were still huge chunks
    of snow and ice littering the walkways, and many home-owners had opted to
    use snow melt which isn't the most pet friendly substance known to man.

    As noted in an earlier post, Mich has a tendency to lick his lips when he's
    concentrating, so the image I captured as we approached a roadway along our
    walk, was Mich's expression as he scanned the intersection, looking for the
    most direct way to get through the windrows left by graders, whatever
    traffic was approaching, and any patches of bare ice which could set both of
    us ass over tea kettle, once again, all of this while keeping part of his
    attention on me for signals as to where I wanted to go.

    I know enough about my XSi's flash to know that, when I am shooting within a
    couple of feet from the subject, the flash compensation should be dialed
    down a bit in order to avoid over-exposing the subject. So, when shooting
    this close to the subject I would normally have set the flash compensation a
    stop or two lower than what I opted for for this image. I intentionally
    wanted the parts of the dog closest to the camera to be a bit over exposed,
    in order to bring out that cold winter's night image. I also wanted to
    ensure that the main part of Mich's head would be sufficiently lit to render
    his expression in vivid detail.

    The hardest part of the shot was to eliminate the harness handle from the
    pic. If you look at earlier, similar, pics of Mich while we're working,
    part of the handle usually is visible in the upper left corner. In order to
    enhance the isolation of the dog guide, I didn't want that handle visible,
    so I had to stoop a bit lower and stretch my arm out a bit farther than I
    had on previous attempts, increasing the likelihood of smashing it into an
    obstacle just off the walkway.

    But, I did want to have a part of the harness visible, in order to convey
    that Mich indeed was working. Thus, I wanted the chest strap visible.
    Traditionally, when an animal has worked for humans, they have been
    harnessed, and they accomplish their task by pushing into a chest strap.
    Guide dogs are no different. They don't just walk beside the handler, they
    actually pull into the harness in order to maintain a constant pressure.
    This pressure makes it possible for the dog to communicate with the handler,
    and for the handler to communicate with the dog. During walks such as this
    post-blizzard walk with Mich, communication between the partners is
    incredibly important,

    For those of you who are not blind, and who haven't been lucky enough to
    work with a dog, you will never know just how much teamwork goes on every
    time a dog team goes out for a walk. I kind of feel sorry for you in that

    In sum, there is no single element of this picture which is unimportant.

    From the dark background to the cold flash rendering Mich in overly stark
    detail to the bit of reflective taped harness strap visible across his
    chest, all elements have a place.

    And, as is the case in most art galleries where a work is just hung on the
    wall or plopped on a stand with minimal description, it is up to the viewer
    to determine for himself / herself what it means.

    The more the viewer knows about the artist, the better his / her likelihood
    of grasping the artist's intention. If the viewer out-and-out dismisses the
    artist as a crackpot, the message will never be grasped. If the viewer asks
    questions and shows interest, the greater the chance real communication can
    take place between the characters involved.

    Only a message as simplistic as "War is Bad," "God is Love," Kids are Cute"
    will be conveyed without knowledge of the artists life / beliefs. And, even
    in those cases, knowledge of how an artist feels about war might change a
    "War is Bad" image into "AntiWar Propaganda is Overly Simplistic."

    End of rant.

    Take Care,
    Dudley Hanks, Dec 20, 2009
  15. Dudley Hanks

    Dudley Hanks Guest

    A photo is just that, a photo, as you said, an imperfect rendition of
    something in the real world.

    What we get from the image depends largely on the viewers interest and
    experience, not the artist's blood, sweat and tears, nor his intention.

    However, the more the viewer knows about the artist, the greater is the
    likelihood the viewer will grasp the artist's message.

    Take Care,
    Dudley Hanks, Dec 20, 2009
  16. Yes. I've always had two opposing feelings about this. On one side,
    I prefer not to know anything about the artist/composer/writer so
    that I can see/enjoy/judge a piece on its own merits, with "external"
    influences removed (I used to dislike even the information that titles
    and short descriptions gave on tags with photos in shows - and I never
    had any in my shows). On the other side, having more information
    can "open up" one's awareness of what is being displayed (a recent
    example for me was watching/listening-to excerpts from Daniel
    Barenboim's master classes on some Beethoven piano sonatas, which
    was a revelation for me about how much thought and consideration
    goes into EVERY little bit and its relationship with all others in the
    music to make it "work" as a whole - and this was amazing!). Some
    wonderful British literature courses also had this positive effect - and
    the skillful professor did not dissect the works and "leave the pieces
    quivering on the floor", but instead illuminated the context of the times
    during which they were written, provided interesting and relevant
    particulars about their authors, and also demonstrated the high points
    of the works, all while leaving them still wonderful and undamaged
    by excessive analysis. Whatever works...! 8^)
    David Ruether, Dec 20, 2009
  17. If you need THAT many words to try to explain your "art", it clearly isn't
    any kind of art. Your's is just a silly and deeply insecure little-boy's
    desperate attempt for attention, no matter how he can try manipulate others
    into giving it to him.
    Dudley's Crap Gets Deeper, Dec 20, 2009
  18. Dudley Hanks

    Dudley Hanks Guest

    Yes, "whatever works."

    The first approach, that of not knowing anything about the artist or his /
    her intentions / goals, allows the viewer to enjoy the piece "on its own
    merits," or as I would contend, according to the viewer's pre-existing
    demands / esthetic standards.

    This is to say that the viewer establishes the parameters within which he /
    she is willing to approve of the characteristics he / she consciously
    considers -- allowing the viewer to become very much attached to the
    piece, or to disregard it entirely.

    The second approach entails a bit more work on the part of the viewer and
    affords no greater reward than the satisfaction of appreciating a bit more
    fully what the artist envisioned as he / she worked on the piece, and to
    possibly have certain less evident details brought into consideration
    throughout the investigation. The drawback to the approach is that it
    perhaps keeps the viewer at a greater emotional distance from the work under

    Some would say that this approach is a more satisfying, even a more mature
    way to view art than simply seeing and sauntering, since it demonstrates a
    greater willingness on the part of the viewer to consider other points of
    view than those he / she subscribes to.

    Personally, most of my appreciation of art has stemmed more from the latter
    school than the former, as I really enjoy learning how others have
    approached conveying their ideas.

    Regardless of the merits of either approach, though, it ultimately comes
    down to the individual and "whatever works" for that person.

    Take Care,
    Dudley Hanks, Dec 20, 2009
  19. Dudley Hanks

    Dudley Hanks Guest

    If you can't appreciate another's efforts, you are simply a self-indulgent,
    narrow-minded wanna-be, who can't perform himself, so he attacks the efforts
    of those he least identifies with.

    You get your own attention by accusing others of seeking it...

    The bottom-line is that you haven't posted because you either can't, or
    because you are too afraid of criticism to step out of your protective,
    isolationist shell. You'd rather be viewed as a narrow-minded fool with
    Natzi tendencies than to perhaps realize your personal fear that others
    won't support your efforts.

    By giving others no choice other than to condemn you, you get what you
    crave, verification of evoking an emotional response in others, even if that
    emotional response is nothing more than disgust...

    Take Care,
    Dudley Hanks, Dec 20, 2009
  20. Dudley Hanks

    MikeWhy Guest

    I can see what you're after, but it still doesn't work. That image clashes
    with and gets swallowed by the already established and more prevalent visual
    vernacular of "Grandkids run amok with the P&S." Even with that out of the
    way, the black negative field is just empty space. For us, the blankness is
    benign and holds none of the menace that plagues you. You didn't succeed in
    communicating that in the image, only in the text (refutation, actually)
    that followed. Hence, the image doesn't say what you wish it to say. You're
    not there yet.
    MikeWhy, Dec 20, 2009
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