Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Entropy in photography? Well, entropy is a concept in physics and chemistry, the second law of thermodynamics, and in information theory, the latter explained here. And the photo above? Well, two thoughts occurred to me when taking this photo. First, what the machine does, and second, what's the optimium way to get a photograph of it.

This machine runs along a line of tracks checking and redriving the spikes into the bed. It's kinda interesting to watch as all of sudden you hear and feel a loud "ping" which runs down the rail, a long reverberation you hear first then feel in your feet standing next to the tracks racing away down the track. That's a lot of energy to just do one thing, drive a spike into the ground, and a lot of energy just going into space for a simple act done a century ago by manual labor.

And photography? Well, a photographer has two choices with an image. He could take one to a few images and work them in Photoshop to do the bulk of the work, or he could take a lot of shots, called bracketing where you take the same image through the range of exposures and settings. The former is used by some who set their camera on automatic and hope it turns out, or if you're really good, by professionals who know what they're doing. The latter is used by most knowing one or a few will work, or also by professionals who know what they're doing but want insurance.

The thought of entropy here is simply where is the optimium work being done and where will you spend time and energy on the image to find you're past the point of diminishing returns, shown in concept here. In the field, it's a matter of thinking the scene and taking lots of shots. In the office, it's a matter of working to fix an image that wasn't quite right.

It is rare you take one image that works with little effort, not even in large format photography where you actually spend a lot of time and work on both ends because you usually only take 1-3 shots (sheets). You have to think through both ends and get it right. With digital cameras and photo editors, you have a lot of options, and where you want to put your energy, without passing the peak where you're caught in the entropy of your own work.

I personally opt for the field side, where I get a series of images at different exposures, setting, positions, etc., sometimes as many as 20 or more of the same scene where it's changing, like this guy and his machine rolling down the track. The digital file imported in and was processed into the size you see here. I was happy with the overall view and did no editing, thanks to bracketing with the camera and walking around to find different views.

Such is life in photography. Life, photography and the philosophy connectiing them in your mind.

No comments:

Post a Comment