New season and a full programme to look forward to. We started with an evening of member’s summer photographs and I can honestly say I was delighted that this year that was from half the people in the room. There was a broad variety and a decent standard of photography, meaning that we all had the opportunity to take something new away, from location, angle, technique but above all, lighting. After all light is everything when we are talking about photography.
Looking at other people’s images is a great way to develop our own when we look beyond the initial reaction to what we like, and what we would change about angle, subject, editing – and then go out and try it. it’s called looking critically and it is something that we can all learn to do, but if we don’t apply it it’s just called looking at pictures. Pleasant enough but not what a photographer does. It is what delineates a photographer from a bloke-with-a-camera (or a woman-with-a-camera though the kit-bores I have met have been male universally).
We have a full programme again this year – our thanks to the hard working Programme Team, there is a lot, lot more that goes into it than meets the eye. Next week we are taking a look at food photography (part 1 of 2), and the evening will be split between a tutorial session and a practical after break, or for those who want to get stuck in then the option to start with the practical is there. For those of you who want to get a start then head over to this B&H video on YouTube which covers a lot.
Now that isn’t to say that you are going to walk away an expert, but it does give you a way into something that is easy to practice basic techniques to which you can apply any number of hacks, mods and tricks to get that image you have in your mind’s eye. Like everything else it is down to practice, practice, practice with that critical eye we mentioned above. An important qualification here. Critical does not mean trashing, your own or anyone else’s work. To work it must be open and honest, it is about the image not the photographer and certainly not about the critic’s ego nor the kit the photographer used to take the image.
Psychologists have evolved a thing called the 10 second rule. Negatives are easier for us to process (assuming the best preparing for the worst is as good a description of a balance, but maybe that is just me). Use the sandwich approach. Good-Improve-Good. Each good point we keep in our mind for 10 seconds because our brains seem wired to give more weight to negativity (Rick Hansen memorably uses the analogy “The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones”). The 10 second rule balances out this negativity to some degree. The improve section goes along the lines: “The next time I make this photograph I will …”. We can then look for similarities between images and go out and try our remedies and/or new things. That is where a notebook comes in handy.
Taking and making notes is a good development tactic. This can be about the process, the set up, the lighting, the equipment, techniques, general observations and or reminders or even random thoughts generated as a consequence of taking or thinking about a photograph. Artists sketch books are a centuries old idea and they work, whether you consider yourself an artist or not. Photographers are no exception to this. Monographs and sketch books are always a good source of inspiration.
As ever there is the idea of the photographic project. Food is one of course and that is where we will start in the club. Each week of the club calendar is a little project in its own right if we care to make it so. The club, through its Flickr and Facebook accounts is a place where we can get some of the feedback that helps with our development, just post and ask for feedback. Constructive feedback, such as we talked about above, is the fuel for development in any field, photography is no exception.
So, in preparation, we can start reviewing what we have done in our own collections of close up photography, including table top sessions at the club and start thinking about composition in a situation where we control all the elements including the light.
And as we said at the top of this piece, it’s all about light.
A new season and so the blog returns from its slumbers. We started with a good spread of photographs taken over the summer and it was good to see so much variety. It is the third year that we have been at the Wicklea Academy and it was good to see so many faces old and new.
The programme is pretty varied this year and our thanks go to the programme team past and present. There is a slight change to the points schedule as far as the competitions go, details on the web site. The focus, as ever, is on personal development and learning as certainly been at the heart of the club for many years. The blog is here to support that, based on what we are doing in the club on that particular week. The competition rounds are a chance to celebrate your journey, get some feedback and pit yourself against others in the club. All of us who have been at the club any length of time has certainly benefited from that cycle and the practical evenings are chances to try something different, to discuss and try things with other photographers. Your level of experience isn’t the issue, everyone has something to bring to each meeting. Your questions count. It does not matter what the kit is you use, its brand, its complexity, nor its popularity, as the club motto says it all: For us, it is the picture, not the camera, that counts.
So let’s start with some questions. The “What camera should I get?” dilemma. Most people have access to a camera via their phone these days, so let’s start with what camera have you got? The reason for this is that the number one equipment related solution is the same with any camera, be it a point and shoot, a camera phone or a full blown professional rig. Get to know your camera. Now, I appreciate the most under read document anyone can ever produce is a user’s manual and the camera on your phone doesn’t come with much of a camera manual anyway, by and large, and camera apps with even less, but ……
Yogi Berra (Baseball player rather than a photographer but that doesn’t alter the point) once said, “If you don’t know where you are going you will probably wind up some place else“. If you just point your camera and blast away regardless of what the settings are you are going to find yourself in a place called Disappointment via the town of Meh. This is what most people do with a camera phone. This is not a question of automatic settings v manual (there is an evening based on that on the programme later in the year). You will have options for light and dark, flash (though that might be stretching the term a bit) maybe HDR (High Dynamic Range), a whole bunch of filters. Put yourself in a well-lit position, preferably with a constant sort of light, a set subject and work your way through them until you have a reasonable understanding of which setting does what. Take notes. Actually, a note book has a place in every photographer’s camera bag.
Learning to be deliberate when taking photographs is the key attitude we need to develop. In order to be effective, we need to develop an appreciation of how things change. How our cameras deal with extremes of light and dark and the bits in between, is a good start. Don’t ignore the programme modes, might also be called scenes, as they give you a clue as to what they do relevant to the cameras basic settings (which together form the Exposure Triangle). Used with a bit of forethought you can use these to get the best out of the lighting conditions you are confronted with – pressing the shutter is not only the last thing you do to take a photograph but also the last thing you consider when taking a photograph.
Something else you can do cheaply is to start looking critically at photographs that you like. Identify what it is you like about them, what story is it telling you? How do the shadows fall? What is the placing of the objects in the frame? Pick one. Go practice getting it right with whatever camera you are using. Make notes. Have fun, you are learning. The point is you are recreating an effect, not copying a picture. By doing this you start on the journey from looking to seeing. As for subject, it may well be probably directly in front of you. The trick is to work the angles, you are not looking for a masterpiece you are looking for the most interesting angle. You can still practice this on your phone, any time you have a working camera on you of whatever type and two minutes to spare. The key take-away, as they like to call it in training programmes, is that this is this is a system and you can practise it with very little indeed.
N E X T M E E T I N G
Members report back from the club trip to the Lake District last May.
Final blog from me, pretty much, until such times as I have opened the Reflex CC Overseas Branch. It will be a short post, you will be glad to hear. Meg is going to take over though there won’t be a post next week as we are both away. Last evening we went to Bath, which was warm and pleasant as any bath should be and dry which is the standout difference from the tub next to your toilet. That and a capital letter wherever it appears in a sentence, of course. Next week’s peripatetic club meeting is at Clevedon Pier, 7:30 pm.
It cannot be denied that a soft sun and Bath stone are pretty much made for each other. I have occasionally watched the Rugby and marvelled as the sun goes down over the city on an Autumn day at just how spectacular it can be. It is the interplay of tones and colours, the angles of the light and its temperature, the degree to which the air is clear or hazed that makes any photograph. It is a basic law of physics that all objects, saving a black hole, reflect right. You don’t hear a great deal about colour theory in photography, it tends to be dealt with as an incidental and a quick reference to a colour wheel and certainly there is more to it than the space I am going to give it, but a little understanding can help when working out how a photograph does or doesn’t work – or indeed might or might not.
Hue is probably the easiest one to discuss for photography because of that much used but frequently misunderstood tool the colour dropper. Hue is measured in degrees (from 0-359) and relates directly to the colour wheel. Not by accident is there a relationship between hue and circularity. The values you see next to the colour dialog relate to the position on the colour wheel. If you want to find a complimentary colour just add 180 to the value (0-179) or subtract 180 (180-359) shown in the box. There are other factors but the principle holds generally good.
Adobe take this further with their free tool Kuler. Now I am assuming that this is the word colour (more likely color) that crawled out of the wreckage of a creative meeting of thirty-somethings’ who just realised that “Kool” had passed to the twenty-somethings’ and their consequent desperate need to prove they still had it (high five), run by a vampire (currently very cool) wearing Google Glasses ™ and loafers who was really a two-hundred-and-twenty-something psychopath with an odd sense of humour who had, in fact, suggested “Culler”. However it is a really useful tool. Dumb spelling, but a really useful tool. This takes you through the primary, secondary and tertiary colours and half a dozen colour/color/kuler/culler rules (analogous, monochromatic, triad, complementary, compound aka composite and shades) as well as having a custom option.
Colour, no doubt, has a psychological impact. If you ever find yourself in a bar where the lighting is getting progressively more blue the closer to closing time, it’s because blue has an end of day effect on us psychologically (note the blue hour) and people are prompted to leave (reddish hues pump up the atmosphere and are used to encourage buying). It can make or break a photograph, there are many times when taking the colour out of a photograph and leaving just tones, textures and lines makes (or saves) an image. There can be some spectacular effects and, of course, in the early days of photography there was no realistic, certainly mass market, alternative to hand colouring. We may not always get to choose the colours we work with in an image but we select the content of each image and colour will have a strong pull on us. If that improvement thing is to work then we need to make it more a conscious part of our photography.