— Kurt Lightfoot —: Blog https://www.kurtlightfoot.com/blog en-us (C) Kurt Lightfoot – all rights reserved (— Kurt Lightfoot —) Tue, 17 Jul 2018 01:02:00 GMT Tue, 17 Jul 2018 01:02:00 GMT Lone Bench and Other Metaphors https://www.kurtlightfoot.com/blog/2015/11/lone-bench-and-other-metaphors
Lone BenchLone Bench


Metaphor Rich:
Lone Bench
is a metaphor rich image I use in the workshop "Shoot For Story ~ Edit For Perception".  It is used to inspire the workshop participants to share their interpretation of the image, what feelings it creates, and how the visual elements work together to create a narrative.  It is used to feed a dialog about visual literacy.

I just had to have it
The first public display of Lone Bench was at Gallery 21 in Spanish Village, Balboa Park, San Diego.  It was the center image in a triptych.  The collector who purchased Lone Bench was asked by the gallery attendee about what motivated him to buy it.  He merely said, "I just had to have it."  I wish I knew more. What are the elements in the image that compelled him to purchase it?  I'll never know for sure, but I have my guess.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood - Robert Frost
When you come to a fork in the road, take it - Yogi Berra

Lone Bench is full of visual literacy clichés that we know and love; a bench, a hollowed-out log, diverging paths, mystically lit forest.  We know these visual clues and the feelings they are associated with.  They speak to us in a clear common language, and we like them. 

Workshop attendees describe the narratives they see in the image.  Viewers tell narratives based on which path they entered on, how long they sat on the bench, how the scene feels (usually warm, comforting, nostalgic, but sometimes ominous), and by which path they exit the scene and why that path over other choices.  We're really good at building personal narratives when we're given meaningful visual clues.

Below is the slide from the workshop that talks about the story elements.


Visual literacy clichés may not be such a bad thing.  I still enjoy gazing at Lone Bench

In the workshop, Lone Bench is also used to illustrate how editing can enhance how the visual metaphors flow together.  Here's a summary of the most radical edits: flipped left-to-right, de-cluttered, warmed, re-lit to influence eye flow and attention. 

Below is a quick slide show summarizing the major edits.

But editing has it limits.  If the original scene didn't contain the visual metaphors to begin with then editing could not add them.  And the same can be said for the library of visual metaphors we carry in our minds.  Without minds with a rich personal history that creates and stores visual meaning we can not have visual arts.  So, that collector who said "I just had to have it" has had a personal rich visual history that is warmly recalled by Lone Bench and other metaphors.





(— Kurt Lightfoot —) lone bench narrative photography visual literacy visual metaphor https://www.kurtlightfoot.com/blog/2015/11/lone-bench-and-other-metaphors Tue, 17 Nov 2015 17:22:19 GMT
Interpretive: mixing photorealism and abstraction https://www.kurtlightfoot.com/blog/2014/11/interpretive Chief Pontiac 3a 6945 afterChief Pontiac 3a 6945 after Mixing photorealism and abstraction, using only the scene's elements, is very exciting to me.  I can juxtapose the image to itself.  It allows me to express new interpretations of the scene's meaning.  It helps expand the meaning of a scene into something more significant than what is contained in a mere photorealism perception of the scene.

Borrowing from Minor White, the scene can convey what it is and what else it is: what it is literally, and what it is metaphorically.  It can be what it is and its metaphor all in the same time and space.

In Pontiac Hood Ornament I'm using abstraction to convey the sense of modernness, motion, speed, action, and attractiveness.  I think that those characteristics are what a hood ornament was intended to convey by its designer (circa 1950).  I have to abstract-in a look that communicates those half-century old hood ornament design goals to a modern eye.  But I'm keeping enough photorealism so that the viewer knows its a real hood ornament.

Start the before & after slide show to see my decisions:

Pontiac Hood Ornament is part of the gallery The Drama of Car Culture.
Click here to jump there.



Glow In The Park 1Glow In The Park 1 Glow In The Park triptych
Grass Hopper book project




(— Kurt Lightfoot —) car culture interpretive kurt lightfoot metaphor narrative photographer photography https://www.kurtlightfoot.com/blog/2014/11/interpretive Sat, 22 Nov 2014 17:05:18 GMT
Narratives With Isolation https://www.kurtlightfoot.com/blog/2014/11/narratives-with-isolation Isolation can feel entrapping or freeing.

Narratives With Isolation uses visual metaphors and symbols to create in the viewer's perception and emotions an experience that includes isolation.  But isolation is not the whole story — hence narratives with isolation, not narratives about isolation.

Isolation per se is not good or bad.  We need more visual information to know how to feel about what the isolation means, and we need to know about our personal reactions to the isolation metaphors.  Examples:

  • Isolated benches or picnic tables can seem lonely, desolate and depressing unless you're there for privacy, meditation, or spending time with those you came with.
  • Vultures on a naked, dead tree provide fewer narrative choices for the viewer.
  • Paths can recall choices, transitions, and even transcendence.
  • Spiritual experiences and awakenings are associated with isolation.
Lone BenchLone Bench Lone Picnic Table 2Lone Picnic Table 2
Roost #3Roost #3 Roost 1Roost 1
End Of The PierEnd Of The Pier His Under PassHis Under Pass
Pathway Out 2Pathway Out 2 Pathway Out 3Pathway Out 3

The color pallet – basically black and tones of browns – creates an isolation from our vibrant, colorful existence.  In some narratives it comes across as warm, friendly sepia tones with positive associations and emotions, maybe like a restored old photo.  In other narratives it comes across as desolate and apocalyptic, maybe like an eerie smoke filled sky from a massive wildfire threatening homes and lives.

Synonyms for isolation; solitude, seclusiveness, desolation, detachment, privacy.

This blog post discusses images from a gallery located here.

(— Kurt Lightfoot —) interpretive kurt lightfoot metaphor narrative photographer photography https://www.kurtlightfoot.com/blog/2014/11/narratives-with-isolation Wed, 05 Nov 2014 18:51:51 GMT
Dahlias ~ What The Bee Sees https://www.kurtlightfoot.com/blog/2014/7/dahlias-what_the_bee_sees The goal of this project is to interpret dahlias with a compelling, expressive visual message.

My motivation to interpret the dahlias expressively came from wanting to answer this question: How powerful does the dahlia look to an insect in a dahlia-insect ecology? Then translating the answer into human perception.  My conclusion was that the dahlias would express very compelling, demanding, controlling, highly-motivating messages to insects — far more compelling than our mere human experience of their beauty. 

To express that "far more compelling" sense I selected editing choices that I felt took the look and feel of the flower in the appropriate expressive direction. To translate from flower-insect messaging to human understanding, I felt the need to convey a surrealistic abstraction that took the dahlia from sweet-and-friendly to attention-commanding.

Dahlia 2 ~ What The Bee SeesDahlia 2 ~ What The Bee Sees
Dahlia 2 ~ What The Bee Sees

Dahlia 1Dahlia 1

Dahlia 1

Dahlia 3Dahlia 3

Dahlia 3

For me, Dahlia 2 ~ What The Bee Sees best expresses my goals for this project. It expresses the power of center of the flower, and it includes enough surrounding imagery to remind us that it's in an ecological system.  Plus it has an actual bee — reminding us that it's their world and we're just visiting.  So it has the most complete narrative.

Dahlia 1 has the strongest sense of the power of the center of the flower. When the dahlias triptych has been juried into a show, Dahlia 1 is the most popular of the three.

Dahlia 3 shares more information about the surrounding environment.  It has the strongest sense of space, and the emergence of the power of the flower from the surrounding space.


Start the slideshow below to see a before & after example


The dahlias were originally photographed at the request of the Director at Mission San Luis Rey. The project started as straight documentary photographs to be used by collateral designers to communicate activities and resources at the Mission.

This blog post discusses images from a gallery located here.

(— Kurt Lightfoot —) Kurt Lightfoot interpretive metaphor narrative photographer photography visual literacy https://www.kurtlightfoot.com/blog/2014/7/dahlias-what_the_bee_sees Sat, 26 Jul 2014 16:18:02 GMT
Sky Deity https://www.kurtlightfoot.com/blog/2014/7/sky-deity Sky Deity 6Sky Deity 6

Sky Deity is based on the concept of nature creating and providing humans with metaphoric images of a deity – in this case a transcendent deity that shows itself in the sky.  I'm imagining how a pagan, polytheistic human mind, meditating on this scene, could experience it as religiously significant and transcendent.

Sky Deity 1Sky Deity 1 This project started as a documentary assignment.  The City of Escondido assigned me to capture images of Grape Day Park and its adjacent institutions including City Hall.  This image is one of the images they selected for their purposes. Sky Deity 3Sky Deity 3

To appreciate the scene as transcendent, I try to assume the mindset of an ancient pagan tuned into the mysticism of the natural creation.  I image the cloud's structure as a deity and the trees as worshiping the deity.

The symbolic clues that led me to using this scene as a pagan mysticism image include the serendipitous structure of the clouds in the center and the trees leaning in towards that structure. 

It's as if the trees are recognizing the cloud formation as theistically significant.  It's as if all of creation is aware of itself in a self-celebrating, self-worshiping way.

This blog post discusses images from the gallery located here.

(— Kurt Lightfoot —) Kurt Lightfoot interpretive metaphor narrative photographer photography https://www.kurtlightfoot.com/blog/2014/7/sky-deity Sat, 12 Jul 2014 20:15:24 GMT
Workshop: "Shoot For Story ~ Edit For Perception" (sm) https://www.kurtlightfoot.com/blog/2014/7/shoot-for-story-edit-for-perception Detail 8th FlagDetail 8th Flag

Workshop Description

The power of your photography begins with the visual symbolism of the story you are telling.  Editing in Photoshop conveys your story to the viewer.

This interactive workshop traces the "story-perception" process using examples of classical and contemporary photos, events, portraits, pets, landscapes and car culture. 

Dahlia 1Dahlia 1

Shoot For Story

In the "Shoot For Story" half of the workshop we interpret a wide variety of photographs.  Image sources include classic, commercial, editorial, and contemporary art photographers.  We dig into each image and determine what works – or does not work – in each photograph.  We expand on the concept of visual literacy to understand how the subjective elements in the image are conveying a story, and how compelling and interesting the story is to the viewer.

Attendees participate in the interpretation process — this creates a dynamic, fun workshop.  Attendees can just attend and passively experience the interpretations, or jump in at any time.  This process greatly expands our appreciation for how symbolic elements in an image ignite the imagination of the viewer.

Cruisin' Grand 6819Cruisin' Grand 6819

Edit For Perception

In the "Edit For Perception" half of the workshop we discover how to use the nature of human perception to guide our editing choices in Lightroom and Photoshop.  We cover some of the skills-based "how" of photo editing, but we focus more on the "why."  We look at the as-photographed image and ask how the image can be re-visualized through editing to convey a more compelling and clear visual message.

  Editing: Before & After Examples
Click to start the slideshows
Reaching Up
To The Light
Day Of The Dead Super Rides
Shop Shot

Collaborative project by Kurt Lightfoot, Will Gibson,
and shop owner Jordan Quintal.

Lone Bench Dahlia 1

"Dahlia 1" is part of a triptych discussed in a blog post.
Click here to jump there

Sky Diety

The concept for "Sky Diety" is discussed in a blog post.
Click here to jump there



The workshop is available as a donation to non-profit groups of all kinds: photo clubs, art guilds, social clubs, schools, religious organizations.

Please contact me for details.

Kurt Bonanza Front 2 cropped 170 sqKurt Bonanza Front 2 cropped 170 sq


Kurt Lightfoot is principal photographer at Déjà Vu Photo Services specializing in narrative photography to capture the story of client events, groups, individuals and cultural activities.


(— Kurt Lightfoot —) interpretive Kurt Lightfoot metaphor narrative photographer photography visual literacy https://www.kurtlightfoot.com/blog/2014/7/shoot-for-story-edit-for-perception Wed, 09 Jul 2014 18:21:23 GMT