Signal-to-noise ratio

Outbuilding and tractor beside slough on Carol Avenue

Stillness (outbuilding and tractor beside slough on Carol Avenue)

Reminding me that I’m a rank amateur: I’ve had this Sony A6000 for a little over four months and am still discovering technical issues and–I hope–solutions. Last night I shot this 30-second exposure and threw it into Lightroom (image processing program) when I got home. Without Lightroom adjustments it was nearly pitch black, so I opened up the dark areas using the sliders, and on top of that increased the exposure by a full stop.

Although I like the result–it matches, more or less, what my eyes saw while I was parked on the side of the pothole-pitted road–at anything approaching 1:1 magnification or greater there’s an awful lot of noise (weird-colored speckles) in both the sky and the field. This hasn’t been a problem in my other long exposures, and since I just got the camera back from the shop with a clean sensor, I naturally suspected the sensor cleaning was at fault.

But after extensive online reading, I saw that my downfall was probably due to bracketing the exposures. That is, I set the camera to automatically take a 15-second shot followed by a 4-second and then a 30-second shot. When you turn on automatic bracketing, Sony’s in-camera noise reduction program is turned off. All my previous successful long exposures had been single shots–I remember, because when the noise reduction program runs, you have to wait about as long as your exposure took AFTER the shutter closes before you can shoot again while the program does its cleaning up.

Of course I’ll go out tonight and test that theory.




Firs Bowl, January Morning

When I was an art major a long time ago, I spent a lot of energy worrying about the meaning and purpose of my paintings. Something like that is going on again with my photographs, but this time with no professors asking me to defend my work.  It’s just me on my own, bothering myself. Am I documenting the changing landscape of Eugene? You know, deliberately? Or maybe I’m commenting on the American Dream, or the state of capitalism, or urban sprawl.

I don’t want to do any of those things, at least not on purpose. Every time I construct an intellectual scaffolding around my artistic work in any medium, I end up in a silly and painful tangle of internal arguments. And I stop making work.

The truth is I’m drawn by what looks beautiful to me. Mysterious. Often this seems to be the result of some combination of artificial lights and temporary emptiness. And a strong emotional reaction to the place as a place: This place–building, lot, landscape–couldn’t look like this anywhere else. As fast as we build standardized, lookalike strip malls and fast food franchises, nature moves steadily and with irresistible force, beating on walls with rain and wind, depositing mold spores in siding and rust on roof vents, sending up moss and grasses through cracks in the asphalt. Everything is local.