'The Spike'

by Crosley John

the spike street portraits crosley seeking critique john

Gallery: Faces in Time

Tags: street-portraits crosley seeking critique

Category: Street

Exif Information:
Model : NIKON D300
Date Time Original : 2009-07-06 23:57:54
Focal Length : 35/1
Shutter Speed Value : 1/24
Exposure Time : 1/25
Aperture Value : 5.0
F Number : 5.0
Iso Speed Ratings : 500
Metering Mode : 5
Focal Length In35mm Film : 52
Orientation : 1
X Resolution : 72.0000000
Y Resolution : 72.0000000
Copyright : John Crosley, All Rights Reserved, No Copying Without Written Permission In Advance
Software : Adobe Photoshop CS4 Windows

Published: Monday 10th of August 2009 09:31:19 AM


John Crosley
Rajat Poddar If you saw this in its state before I began post-processing, you would have passed it over, I fear. It had attractive composition, which stopped me, but there were large expanses of 'nothing' in the subject's mainly white face. It was slightly overexposed - not much, just a little -- leaving the 'spike guy's' facial skin uninteresting, and in fact just plain boring. But as I began to darken the photo, in keeping with my view of the subject, his facial features began to darken and 'come out', and as they did so, the facial features began to fill portions of an otherwise empty screen. I wanted to 'darken' the photo substantially, so the 'spike' would particularly stand out -- after all, it's a main part of the photo. It's his adornment that we can see best in black and white, and it marks him as an extrovert who wants attention, and a member of a certain social subset. We don't see his left eye which is ringed with a jagged-edge red outline with makeup, or his reddish color hair, left, because of the desaturation. We focus on that spike sticking out of his lower lip/mouth, which thankfully REALLY SHOWS. In fact it almost glows, but no special Photoshop effects. This guy's near eye, shows black because of red eye make-up, but in black and white you don't see that, as it's distracting to the photo as I've presented. In color that make-up would have competed with what I have made the 'focus' - the glowing spike. The guy in the background darkened considerably as I darkened the capture, but his tattoo of a pentagram (the devil's sign?), also shows through well, ,for which I am thankful. It doesn't matter that it's out of focus; in fact it may help considerably. I relish two subjects in a capture when I can make them work together, rather than one, as it helps fill the frame. This is one of those instances where you (as a photographer) just shoot by instinct, making effort to 'watch your background' as I did here, and keeping into account the balance between the foreground subject left, and the background subject, right, as you and subjects move fairly rapidly. It's a split-second task which can occasionally be quite rewarding. Thanks for your comment, Rajat. John (Crosley)

John Crosley
Alon Eshel I took a lot of photos of this guy. Believe it or not, I thought it was almost exclusively a COLOR shot. So why did I desaturate? He had his right eye surrounded by a decoration with red that was bizarre. Part of his hair was red,. And the eye decoration was HUGE, but on the opposite eye, though the near eye, which appears 'dark' here, is really smudged with red makeup. But when I saw this of the guy in color, with a cohort, tattoo showing in the background and its composition -- together with the spike sticking through his lower lip, than I decided to desaturate it - despite tempting colors, and very good to excellent captures from the other side where colors predominated. The color on this side was not strong enough and competed with the emphasis on the composition here which I felt was very strong, and especially emphasis on the 'spike' sticking through. I think judging by the able critiques' reactions, including yours, I made a good choice. Thanks for your feedback; it's always welcome. John (Crosley)

Bob Kurt
Fantastic photo!

Alon Eshel
That's a good shot , Very well composed

Rajat Poddar
everything about the man is bizarre... i like your composition

John Crosley
Bob Kurt Thanks for the very high praise. If you saw this one in 'raw' you might have overlooked its potential -- I'll explain below. I am always honored when you stop by. Thanks again. John (Crosley)

Anders Hingel
Yes John of course I refer to your "watch the background texts". Concerning desaturation I only work on the RAW file (never add a jpeg file when shooting) but I work in CS4 in channel mixer after first choosing the high contrast gradient (via channel mixer and back). I will try to see your workflow, which seems even more promising. Thanks

Anders Hingel
John, this is one of those photos that speaks although nothing actually seems to be happening. The guy to the right, out of focus, with his bonnet covering his ears and his short shirt sleeves making sure we see his tattoo, might play an important "second role", telling more than the guy that is in the forefront. Marginal figures making sure that we get the message. Well done. By the way are you "desaturating" ? - I would have expected you to use the channel mixer" and gradient map" for such a job !!

John Crosley
How to take such a photo? In a thousand years, I never intended to take such a photo. In fact, I intended to take a single portrait of the guy, left, from the right side. But I move and dance around a subject who is willing. M. Ali might approve of my technique. I just ask permission to take photos, sometimes close up and sometimes from a distance, then ask the subject mostly to 'be themselves'. Occasionally to keep their trust, I'll show them something good on digital readout ,. . . otherwise, it's just 'trust'. Maybe I've shown them something I've taken previously on that particular chip, to gain trust. It usually works. This guy had some reddish hair (dyed) and red eye makeup. I hoped to capture that. But as I moved around this guy, and kept in mind my presentation Photographers: Watch Your Background' I made sure to keep in this one photo the background guy and his tattoo in the photo as well as focusing on the spike through the lip. In doing my review, I found that although color was fine, the composition of this photo was far stronger than the strength of the color -- and that militated for making this a black and white photo - and that also called for darkening it a great deal, since the subject's right cheek was mostly white in the NEF and JPEG versions. Darkening the exposure brought out skin tones, blemishes and stubble a little and made the photo more 'gritty' than the in-camera capture. So, I never really started out to take this particular photo -- it's partly 'accident' and partly the result of careful study but still unplanned as much as a half minute or less before I took it. Even charitably, I might say, I did not recognize it as a true capture with strength until I reviewed it after download, when it jumped out at me, and I had to post it -- color or not. John (Crosley)

John Crosley
Anders, you are right about the second figure Remember my Presentation, 'Photographers: Watch Your Background'? It's still there in all its enormity if you haven't looked -- PN's largest and a great deal of work, still unfinished. I don't always shoot for the background, but sometimes do, and in this photo did, after shooting the guy, left, as a color portrait. I liked this one better, because of its balance and the guy in the backbground repeated the message of cultural 'edginess' through bodily adornment - e.g. the lip spike foreground and the arm tattoo, background figure. As to desaturation, I am very careful and studied in my desaturation. In almost all instances unless I make a mistake shooting, I shoot NEF (raw) and JPEGs, but open from 'raw' and generally desaturate from 'raw' by checking the desaturate box in Adobe Camera Raw, AFTER manipulating the individual color channels -- far more powerful than channel mixer and even more powerful than B&W command in Photoshop CS4, and if I use a jpeg for any reason, I generally will use the B&W command, but it has fewer color commands than desaturating in Adobe Raw Converter. Once desaturated, I will discard the color info and convert into grayscale to give me an additional choice in shadow/highlight filter -- one slider changes to another slider specific to black and white captures when it's a grayscale photo, which few know, and it's a great advantage. No, I would not just 'desaturate' without specifial manipulation of each color, if it seems important. It is not always, but sometimes it is determianative of the difference between an ordinary capture and a great capture. Thanks for a helpful and intelligence comment, given with good will. John (Crosley)

John Crosley
Anders I shoot both JPEG and 'raw' which in my case is NEFs, because I have found failures in one or the other of a capture - especially an occasional JPEG, which I understand is a result of the way the JPEG file structure is put together. There is software which can rescue failed jpegs, but who wants to end up with jpegs turned to .tiffs, which take up a great deal of space. And last summer I lost a number of downloads which I backed up from one hard drive to another, when I knocked over one hard drive upright on a cement floor in Ukraine, and then, before I had the energy, the next day knocked over (and crashed) the second hard drive. From now on, I do NOT stand such hard drives upright, and lay them down, though they tend to accumulate a little more heat, but cement floors can destroy a well-made hard drive from six inches height. And it did it twice before the second one got backed up after the first one was destroyed (luckily I had some of the chips and was able to re-download them, but many were re-written, but it was not more than seven to 15 downloads and some of the best photos had already been culled and 'worked up' and the workups were in other folders, thankfully. But my high-placed mentor taught me a lesson I had hoped for (a review of my captures by an authority who had no bone to pick - with an entirely fresh eye). In addition to the 'obvious' photos which you and I obviously would choose as among my best, he was able to pick out numerous 'hidden gems' - some of which he said would do well in 'art galleries' and probably should bypass Photo galleries (some can be found on 'another service' and a few on this). I'm almost back to wellness after months of a near death experience (though my life was never really threatened, only my ability to leave my bed), and now I can pursue my life again and have goals - maybe I can set my sights on having my photography become 'famous' -- though i already run into people who 'recognize' some of my better-known photos who don't know where they've seen then. II think I've counted from between 50 million to 70 million 'views' so far, especially if one counts all the pirate sites and blogs that have stolen and posted my photos (but have spelled my name correctly, a mixed blessing). Don't be a stranger, my Swiss friend. And beware of being caught in a barn with those bovine milk producers as they do their digestion and create their methane . . . it's not only highly flammable, but also can eat up all the oxygen in the air in a closed space and cause death by asphyxiation. ;~)))) (I've spent a lot of time in Switzerland . . . regrettably not enough time visiting money beneath the streets of Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich, where every tiny elevator is strong enough to hold a cart load of gold at enormous weight (as gold is extremely dense and heavy), and where every banker automatically closes every door behind him/herself, every time, automatically. (there are no open doors in any Swiss bank,ever . .. . just go walk down the corridor of your friendly UBS or Credit Suisse, etc., or even Julius Baer and you'll see what I mean. ;~)))) I'd make a horrible Swiss banker. John (Crosley)

John Crosley
'The Spike' Fashions change from generation to generation, and each generation sends its signals to those of its own age group and at the same time says to its parents and those of other age groups -- 'We Are Unique' - by a special 'dress' and 'adornment code. This man sports a spike through his lower lip -- while the man behind wears an upper arm tattoo - two 'signs' of their generation. (And query, just how does one 'kiss' a man with a spike sticking out thusly, and what sort of person engages in kissing such a person? He obviously is not 'hostile' here - witness his expression. Your ratings and critiques are invited and most welcome. If you rate harshly or very critically, please submit a helpful and constructive comment; please share your superior photographic knowledge to help improve my photography. Thanks! Enjoy! John

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