This is the blog of Steve Burkett of Italy, Our Italy

Serendipity, Stakeouts & Targeting - Part 2


Last week's post introduced the ways we typically go about capturing a photo.  I suggested that those ways were serendipity, stakeouts and targeting, and in that post, I provided my definitions for each.  If you didn't read that post, or if you need a refresher before continuing, please read it here.

The Challenge

In that Part 1 post, I invited you to guess which of those 3 processes were used for the 'Procession'. And, I left you as I played the theme music for the Final Jeopardy question.

Once again, here is the image.

So, here's the question, again. Was this image a result of:

1.       stakeout, where I waited and waited at this location until the two gondole were just perfectly aligned in a ‘Procession’?

2.       Serendipity, where I happened upon a location and without having to wait hardly at all, one gondola passed by just as another was coming down the canal to create ‘Procession’? Perfect timing! What a surprise! I love it when that happens! Yes!

3.       Targeting, where my goal was to get an image that I envisioned, and which I would call ‘Procession’, and then I went out to make it happen – whatever it took?


And the Answer Is...

Actually, this photo was completely targeted.  There was neither stakeout involved, nor was there anything remotely resembling serendipity happening as far as "Procession" is concerned. Here’s what happened. 

Before leaving Colorado to go to Venice, I had the idea for ‘Procession’ in my mind. While in Venice, I gathered all of the elements that I would need to come up with the final image. I didn't spend any time at all between those two bridges waiting for those gondole to pass, because those two bridges don’t even exist.

Here are the elements that make up the final image for ‘Procession’.

First, as I walked by gondole, I took photos of the ‘risso’ at their rear…

…and the ‘ferro’ at their front.

Strolling Venice, I was always conscious of the bridges I would use in my image.  As there are 409 bridges in Venice, crossing over the 177 canals that divide Venice into 117 islands, I had a lot from which to choose.

I never found just the right pair of close-together bridges, though.  But no worry – that’s why we have Photoshop.  So, I set my target to a bridge with a nice curve with no distracting railings and with some other elements of interest, like the window. The bridge below suited my purposes, so I moved to just the right spot and took this photo.



My targeted work in Venice was complete.  Now my work back home would begin when I returned.

Final Assembly

My job was to clean up the water a bit, create a duplicate of the actual bridge on the left and move it to the right --, not so much a duplicate that it looks too obvious -- and then do some blending for a seamless construct, just as if the Venetian craftsmen hundreds of years ago had done the job themselves.

Here what I had at this point.



What remained was to composite in the gondole with ferro and risso I had captured on my strolls, and to create their reflections in the water as they passed by me in a ‘Procession’.



And finally, I converted the image to black and white, as the color was not really a particularly integral element of the final image, which is about balance, symmetry and timing.


So, there you have it.  

I think that the targeting, and many times the stakeout, are what defines fine-art photography. I have to admit that most of what I would call fine-art photos are the result of targeting.  It is more than just a snapshot, and it often involves several elements (separate photos) that are brought together in an image-editing program (like Photoshop), that make for successful images.

Some might think that a program like Photoshop is cheating, saying things like, "That image was obviously Photoshop'd!".  And some are so whimsical, outrageous or hilarious that it's pretty obvious. But, creating an image that fits into the realm of art often requires some sort of manipulation to be successful.

You know that an artist working with paints, woodblock, or any other medium, doesn't always put every element seen before them into their art work, even when they work from a photograph, paint still-life indoors, or en plein air. They are often working strictly from their mind's eye and they are not even documenting something that exists in this world - we've all seen paintings of unicorns, yet we know they don't exist -- right?.

Any artist does what they need to do to get the image they envision onto the medium that they use - it's called 'artistic license', and that's a license that an artist needs to issue to themselves - for me, using my artistic license is what defines fine-art photography.

I hope you enjoyed this treatise on capturing images, and I hope you don't mind seeing what goes on behind the scenes. If you do, just ignore the man behind the curtain.


Ciao, for now!