Last meeting was our annual thumbing of the collective nose to Cartier-Bresson’s fear of the contrived, the Creative Round. In that all of photography, from one point of view, is contrived, we can take comfort in a Sontagian view that Photography is a “Promiscuous way of seeing” and here are we. It is also another way to open the arguments between the Get-it-right-in-the-camera-ista’s and Ye-accolytes-of-photoshop, but we won’t.
Congratulations to the winners, (Check out the Facebook page or the website) this in some ways is the hardest round of all to to enter, not least because the definition of what we mean by creative is quite fluid. It stems from an original thought or vision. This gives us less chance to take the image we want by accident, the surrealist streak in photography if you will, as it tends to involve a lot of planning and preparation. The flip side of this is that the deliberation it involves is good for us in all the other forms of photography, because it is a productive habit.
“A skilful photographer can photograph anything well” according to John Szarkowski. So that doesn’t mean just slapping on a filter over an existing photograph and calling it creative, though there is nothing to say that you cannot. Passing a superficial inspection is one thing but the photographs that hold the attention are rarely going to be constructed that way. Skill in photography is as much about practice and deliberation and attitude as it is in any other form. The trick for the hobbyist is not to make it a burden, but to enjoy and enjoy learning.
It’s why having a theme works for our development. Yes it is fun (for us, the rest of the family can feel a little left out) to take a camera everywhere and photograph what takes our fancy or arrests our attention, but when we narrow ourselves down we concentrate on looking, and looking for associations with this idea, which we are using to organise our output. A photograph.
It brings us back to that deliberate frame of mind again. This is also something that helps when we feel that we have plateaued in our development. It can be frustrating to not quite get what we visualised, but also it can be the brain’s way of telling us time to try something different. To create a random element in that, basically to set the challenge, use the theme link above and use this preset random number generator to pick a topic from those 328 themes; get a camera; your least used lens or least used camera even, and get right on it.
There is something to be said in rekindling the simple pleasure of just taking a photograph in a spare five minutes. It can be as simple as arranging things to hand on a desk or a table and practising the basics of composition, because nowhere is boring when you have a camera in your hand.
To give a couple of examples:
Whilst waiting for the potatos to boil I took about four frames of a satsuma and a couple of apples, altered saturation and played a bit with curves and made them presentable if not earth shattering images. Of course, if I wanted to become rich I should have taken photographs of the spuds.
Waiting for a relative to get ready I was struck by the incidental arrangement of my Works ID badge and glasses on a side table. Nudged things around very slightly, took it, cropped it square, painted a bit of blur on it. Quite like it. Doubt I will see it hanging in the Royal Society of Arts any time soon, but hey, I got a small sense of achievement out of it.
Same occasion at the other end of the trip, I was waiting in a coffee shop and set myself the challenge of getting the branded coffee cup and the illuminated sign in the window. A bit of cup shuffling, bit of Dutching (avidly watching all those 60’s Batman shows as a kid finally paying off), applied a saturated, bluish, filter to tone down the harsh lighting, job done. No need to buy a new dickie bow for any award ceremony on its account, but that’s fine. I had observed, visualised, framed, captured and post processed in under two minutes, made a photograph that gave me a small sense of having done something, enjoyed doing it and the result. All this by taking a camera to (some) things that make you go Hmmm.
All these were shot and processed and uploaded to Flickr via my decidedly mid-range mobile phone, which has three times as many pixels as my first digital camera had, two very capable editing apps and a link to the internet, all in something that fits in the palm of my hand. The fact is, for a very high percentage of the day I have access to a camera. Yes I prefer to shoot with my camera body and detachable lenses, yes I can potentially do more with it, but the equipment isn’t the point, making the image is. And no one knows what camera was used and very few actually care.
Restriction is as much an opportunity as a wealth of opportunity. This can be shooting with a different lens or one you don’t use very often, a different camera (including your phone camera if you don’t use it very often) close ups (not necessarily macro), wide angles (making sure to include something in the foreground) there are plenty of variations. A simple one is to deliberately frame a portrait and a landscape version of the same image, being careful to compose the best image in each.
As we gave him the first word we will give him the last, in the interests of symmetry, a noble subject for an image. Henri Cartier-Bresson said of taking a photograph that the thinking should be done before and after the taking of a photograph. Make that gap your Zen Moment. Take that time just to enjoy being a photographer.
Light painting, the more advanced bit, with guest Tony Cullen and our own Myk Garton and what an evening it was too. Lots of good stuff going on and some special images. It showed us that some forethought and planning, lights from various sources and a willingness to experiment and you can get some very interesting results. On the cheap too. With virtually no DIY skills you can come up with a variety of home-made or shop-bought resources (usually a mixture of the two) which can have some very interesting effects. Thanks also to Mark for another of his ladies-in-boxes, odd hobby but there you go, this one very shiny. Members can see results that have been posted to the club Facebook page and the club Flickr page is always worth checking out, of course.
As we have previously circumnavigated light painting over the course of this blog, and you can get as detailed as you wish with it, there are plenty of articles and videos to watch out there, we will do a little tour of a couple of things that caught my eye in the photographic press this week. Basically I am going to take the bullet points in an article that chimed and try and get the great photographers to comment on them. With a little bit of commentary by yours truly.
There were two articles on Petapixel, taken from different perspectives of the photographic experience, lessons learned from a new-to-it and someone who had been shooting for 15 years (professionally). The one I am going to take up is the newbie, by Marcus V Petri, worrying that, after a year and 5,000 frames, he is not making the progress that he thinks he should ” Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst“. – Henri Cartier-Bresson.
This is an interesting point as it speaks to “keepers”, which really is the point for everyone, is it not? Part of being a professional, or even a more experienced amateur, is taking very careful control of what you let be seen. This will be a tiny proportion of the shutter actuations. He writes “I’m the type of person that takes hundreds of pictures at slightly different angles and then I chose one that is best. I envy those who just go there, take one great shot, and done”. I am sceptical of those who just go there, take one great shot, and done. There are two ways this happens.
One is dumb luck, possibly moderated by having learned from the past and is never consistent. The other is from a rigorous and time consuming planning and execution process that takes days, weeks, months possibly years. Or you have a battery of assistants who do the spade work and you turn up and press the shutter so that it is “your picture”. Some very expensive photographic workshops run like this, making everything feel seamless – a huge amount of work before and after goes on to make it this way – just so that the client goes away with great shots – also some light painting sessions I have recently attended – which may or may not be down to the quality of the tutoring but is the whole point of the business. The one shot idea is actually corrosive to learning the craft, the idea that you take the one great shot only, then what do you do? “Everyone will take one great picture, I’ve done better because I’ve taken two” – David Bailey. Ansel Adams was a little more generous: “ Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop“.
“There is no such thing as a ‘non-processed pictures.'(sic) Every picture is processed, even the analog ones. Even your eyes process what they are seeing”. As I have expressed the same opinion many times in these posts I can hardly aver. “ You don’t take a photograph, you make it“. – Ansel Adams or more philosophically: “The magic of photography is metaphysical. What you see in the photograph isn’t what you saw at the time. The real skill of photography is organized visual lying”. – Terence Donovan – Guardian (London, 19 Nov. 1983) Or as Bailey put it: “It takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You need less imagination to be a painter, because you can invent things. But in photography everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the ordinary“. “Face,” (London), Dec 1984.
Actually, in the second article I referred to a very similar point is made: “A photo is an extraction. It is a simplification. It is reality seen through certain limitations. It is those limitations that make a photo. Four straight edges and a 2D simplification of reality. You need those limitations to make this an art—if you are trying to 100% capture reality you are not taking a photo and it doesn’t make sense. A photo is a haiku. 17 syllables and done. Without those walls, you’re lost. So embrace the walls and find a way to express everything there is between them. There will always be something outside the walls, but that’s okay too. Do what you can and that’s all you can do“. Patrick Beggan, Petapixel.com, 5 Dec 2016.
“You and the people you know will usually prefer different pictures. My favorites (sic) are rarely my most popular photos”. “There is no special way a photograph should look“. – Garry Winogrand.
All in all if you take the two articles n comparison you can see two poles of the same journey, in some ways. We all do this journey, it doesn’t matter how many years we have been doing photography if we are serious then we will be on it. It doesn’t have a final destination we are always at a way station somewhere towards the last frame we ever take. Good to see that we are not alone though.
Quotes from www.photoquote.com
N E X T M E E T I N G.
R.O.C. Round 2 judging.