It’s been quite the exercise thinking of subject isolation outside the confines of depth of field. I’m “self-taught”, in the sense that I never went to art school and have no degree in anything related to fine art. The tendency these days in the photography world is definitely to rely on fast glass to create a super shallow depth of field in order to isolate the subject. And I really think you nailed it when you said that this is the most easily reproducible method of subject isolation, pretty much anyone with a nice camera and fast lens can do it. This, in combination with watching the edges of the frame, has really made a big difference in how I’ve been shooting.
I feel pretty far off from all of this being quick and intuitive, I’m doing a lot more thinking before each frame and even more self-criticizing while looking over what I’ve shot. I imagine it would take quite a while and a lot of practice before this becomes second-nature, but I’m enjoying it. I don't know if I *love* any of the photos I’m submitting for this assignment, but I suppose that isn't really the point of this assignment. I definitely like them but they almost feel like someone else took them… I suppose it makes sense because the method and the way of looking that resulted in the photos is slightly foreign to me.
I've been sort of limited by terrible weather on the East coast in the US, and so I haven't been as adventurous with my shooting. The first and third shots are simply some nice afternoon sun coming through the window of my house. The second shot is in the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport, the roof was exposed and I liked how it contrasted with the smooth walls. And the last shot was downtown on our first nice day after the snow storm. I generally would have tried shooting the tree wide-open, relying on depth of field and totally blurring out the background buildings. Instead, I shot it at f/5.6 and tried to fill the frame with a story.
Another huge obstacle is my post-processing. I have watched the Intro to Photoshop video which helped. I have the most trouble with curves, and like you suggested I'm just experimenting with them. Sometimes I just get lost in it though, and have no idea what I'm looking at anymore. Especially with finding the right balance between shadows and highlights, and making it look dramatic and contrasty without being harsh. Do you do batch editing at all, or every image is done individually? Do you ever make custom presets, if so, how??? I read in one of your articles that you are super fast when processing, any secrets to the practice, or just years of practice and experimentation?