Spitalfields Teadance 2019 – Double Bass Player with no Crop. Samyang 85mm f1.4  200 ISO 1/35s f1.4  7th in a series of 11 shots. I love the high key effect; the post-processing issue is to get enough shadow detail without overpowering the highlights. 

 
Where Is The Picture Part 2

It’s a rainy Wednesday in August when I should be running an Infrared Workshop at Stourhead in Wiltshire. I had the good sense to postpone the workshop to a hopefully better day in early September. It’s so dark this morning in my study that I have had to put the light on.

To continue the series on Looking and Seeing. If you missed part 1 of this series catch up here I first became interested in the subject of looking and seeing from reading a book called “What’s missing?” by Eddie Ephraums. 

You may be able to find a copy of this book on a second-hand book website as it was first published about 20 years ago. After studying this book the one key bit of knowledge for me was that there is no one standard definition of looking and seeing. The basis of the “What’s Missing” book is that a standard set of questions are asked of 20 working photographers. One of the questions was the photographer’s interpretation of looking and seeing.

 

10 Easy Ways to Ban Looking and Begin Seeing

These suggestions are not in any particular order hopefully your photography practice will be in a position where you can take advantage of the suggestions offered here.

The topics I am discussing this time are:

1 Where does your photographic inspiration come from, whose work do you appreciate?

2 Start to rely on your intuition and anticipation, follow up the “what if…” thought

3 “A photographer knows where to stand and when to press the button” – the decisive moment

4 Look for the essence of the attraction

5 Constantly practice observation and seeing pictures without a camera in hand

6 Work your chosen subject until you know you have the picture

7 Give yourself a brief and plan a set of related pictures

8 Three levels of seeing a picture

9 Be true to your photographic vision and style

10 Photograph the light not the landscape or any other subject matter

 

1 Where does your photographic inspiration come from, whose work do you appreciate?

It seems to me that I ask this question about inspiration in practically every blog post I write, this may or may not be true but that’s what it feels like. Yesterday evening I judged a print battle between two small camera clubs. The host club has a diet of monthly photographic competitions, the work submitted showed that inspiration. Everything was sharp, neat and tidy. They had realised distractions on the edges of prints don’t help. The composition of most pictures was so tight and claustrophobic that it left the subject like a portrait without its environment whatever the subject matter. The one print with a sense of subject scale was let down by other technical faults.

 

It cannot be emphasised enough that creativity or ideas do not spring forth in a vacuum. We all need to feed off each other’s thoughts and ideas, that does not mean to plagiarise other people’s work. When I was starting my photography 35 + years ago I made a point of buying monographs (books with just pictures and little amounts of text) by my favourite photographers.

 

Orgiva Andalucia – winter smoke November 2015

 

Photography isn’t about photography but the subject that the photographer is interested in and wants to convey that emotional connection and attraction to the viewer.

2 Start to rely on your intuition and anticipation, follow up the “what if…” thought

Many of the great real photos you see are a combination of intuition and anticipation. (I would discount much on Instagram as real photography). To allow your intuition to work it needs a little time to work through the possibilities. Therefore, to immediately start shooting the first subject that looks interesting or catches your eye may not be the most fruitful approach.

Look for the best viewpoint that gives the most relevant or clear background. This approach isn’t appropriate for all types of photography, motorsport or team games for example. But it is well applied in street photography see the work of Dave Mason for instance.  I am running a street photography workshop with Dave in Bristol on 30 Sept 2019.

“The more conscious I am why I’m taking it,

the less successful the picture turns out to be”

Fay Godwin – Landscape Photographer

 

 

“There’s something about…” whatever it is, does not have to be fully explained or logical before the taking of the picture. We close off creative possibilities by questioning rather than trusting our intuition. I have always shot based on my intuition rather than logic. Many of the resulting digital negatives will not be fruitful but the ones are will be interesting to me at least.

“Some people see things as they are and say “why?”. 

I dream of things that never were and say “why not?”

George Bernard Shaw

 
 
3 “A photographer knows where to stand and when to press the button” – the decisive moment

Local knowledge is a powerful tool. As a professional photographer I regularly do photo recces in locations I have not been to before. If I have a friend living in the area very often I will ask them to show me around. The research done online is never as good as seeing a place for real. The famous last words “you can’t miss it” spring to mind. It’s very easy to miss the good stuff even when you are only 50 yards (m) away from it unless you know it’s there, hence the need for local knowledge.

In the past, I have joked the timing of when to press the button is determined by the use of a sundial. This suggests that precise timing to get the perfect shot is not required. Depending on the speed of the action a camera with very fast focus and frame burst rate is required. Even then, it is possible to not capture the exact shot as envisaged. The great thing about digital is once you have bought the kit it does not cost anything to have another go.

See the example series of shots below

4 Look for the essence of the attraction

We are all individuals with likes and idiosyncratic tendencies. A subject one finds high attractive another will have no interest in. It’s easy to see a subject raise the camera to the eye and take a picture almost without thinking. To make the picture more effective and communicative from your point of view and that of the viewer, search out the essence of the attraction for you.

How is the picture made a better communication document? Is it with: more or less content, does it need different: content, timing, lighting, viewpoint/background, composition etc, etc.

Hot Hint

“You are the viewer’s eyes”

5 Constantly practice observation and seeing pictures without a camera in hand

The most basic of all photography skills is the ability to see or recognise a potential picture. Everything in photography stems from this one ability. Where this skill needs to be fortified I have made suggestions in the blog post Shoot Loose Crop Tight 2.

Constantly practising observation and seeing pictures without a camera in hand is an easy action to perform anytime, anywhere. All you have to do is take the time to look and imagine, it doesn’t matter what the subject matter is. The more you do it the easier and more effective it becomes.

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera. “
Dorothea Lange

 

“There are pictures everywhere for those with eyes to see”

Andy Beel

This observing without a camera is about deciding what to include and leave out of a picture, where the frame begins and ends. How a picture is composed, may be thinking about the essence of the attraction – what is the real subject matter of the picture? This will also help with looking for distractions on the edge of a potential frame and the options to not include them in the picture.

If you want to give this idea a go, make a note in your diary setting a date and time, for instance, give it a try for say 15 minutes. When you plan and make a regular habit of something the more likely it is that it becomes part of your regular photographic practice as second nature.

 

6 Work your chosen subject until you know you have the picture

Every time you press the shutter creates an opportunity to get things right (or wrong). Try to get the balance right between firstly, believing your instincts, secondly, keeping the eye to the viewfinder thirdly, firing off a sequence of shots containing the shot you anticipate and fourthly, Chimping the results. 

Chimping is looking at the last shot or shots on the back of the camera to check the composition, histogram and point of sharp focus. The essential point is when Chimping you are not looking through the viewfinder and therefore have no ability to take the picture that may be the one you are anticipating. My advice is to know your camera settings well and be confident that you are in control of your camera, Chimp less not more.

Hot Hint

“Be confident, look more, Chimp less”

Andy Beel

 

The series of 6 shots at Haworth Railway Staion in Yorkshire below demonstrates the point well about observation and anticipation and not Chimping between every shot.

7 Give yourself a brief and plan a set of related pictures

Imagine you are a picture editor commissioning a photographer to cover a story for a website or blog post. Create a brief that includes a shooting list, the more detail the better. For example a shooting list may include

  • The must-have and nice to have shots
  • Long shots – wide-angle and telephoto
  • Close-ups / details
  • Setting the scene in portrait and landscape aspect ratios
  • Left, right and centre pictures
  • Shoot more not less
  • Negative space to allow for Text to be included

 

If you are shooting to a list, you can tick the shots off of the list as you take them. When every item is ticked you know you have completed the taking stage of the commission.

I have a generic shooting list on my phone.

 
8 Three levels of seeing a picture

The level of seeing and content of a picture could be described in 3 different levels.

Firstly, the viewer is generally not certain of the dominant subject matter, content or meaning of the picture. Reducing the tones to black and white do not help the basic problem. In the first two examples, the photographer is presenting a partial statement without having a creative vision for the shot.

Secondly, the Attraction, Background, Composition, Depth of Field, Exposure, Focus, lighting and timing are not all optimised to present the strongest form of emotional communication to the viewer. There may be ways to tweak the picture in the post-processing to make it sing instead of sag.

Thirdly, the attractive subject matter, composition, timing, lighting and tonality create emotional engagement between the viewer and the scene. The viewer is either informed or has a new or different appreciation of the subject. This picture is about line and suggestion, every detail of the guitar is not needed ,the highlights tell the story. 

Picture (c) Dave Mason 

9 Be true to your photographic vision and style

“Each human being is a gifted and creative individual with a responsibility to use creativity to their and its highest potential. It is essential to believe in yourself and to give yourself permission to be a creative photographer.

 

Invest your passion and time in those activities that are important but not necessarily urgent, in the nourishing and enhancement of your creativity.

 

Let your vision be the anticipation of the possible”.

 

Andy Beel Nova Scotia 2009

 

 

Freeman Paterson’s Denim Jacket. Freelance Photographer, Writer, Workshop leader, Gardener, Biker. (Taken on a Freeman Paterson Seeing Workshop in Nova Scotia 2009)

 

 
10 Photograph the light not the landscape or any other subject matter

The quality of light is everything in photography. There is usually a splash of good light for a few seconds every day. Good light for me does not mean “sunny f16” bright – that’s beginners light! The light that is easiest to use and control in the post-processing is soft and directional preferably from the side or back. Frontal lighting kills shadows and hence contrast and visual depth.

Llyn Dinas Snowdonia October 2015. Soft sidelighting with no wind helped to make this stunning reflection.

what3words – a life saver

The what3words FREE phone App could save your life even when you do not have an internet connection.

Here is a fantastic invention for anybody who is in need of a highly accurate positioning App on their mobile phone

For examples of how this App helps you and the emergency services click here

 
 
Exact Meeting Locations

Another use for the what3words App is to help exactly locate a meeting place. Say you are meeting a friend at the West Portico of St Pauls Cathedral at 11.00. Type St Pauls Cathedral in to the what3words App search bar this gives you the random 3-word address of ///type.heat.sketch for the centre of the building. Drag the map to the exact meeting point at the west portico with a reference of ///spice.dame.risks. Hit the Navigate Here button, I choose the Google Maps option, Google Maps opens then hit the Directions button. This will direct you to within 3m of the meeting place, no confusion about the wrong or similar place name near by. In London, there can two cafe chains with the same name in close proximity to each and it’s easy to be in the wrong one at the right time!

 

 

Lightroom Classic 8.4 released 14 Aug 2019

Lightroom Classic 8.4 was released on 14 Aug with the new addition of work done on GPU Acceleration which until now has not worked well on my PC or Laptop. GPU Acceleration should help improve Lightrooms performance. GPU Acceleration is not supported on all Windows 10 or Mac machines, my desktop PC is supported but my Windows 10 laptop is not.

I have noticed a marked improvement in the speed that raw files open in the Develop module.

How to check if your Graphics Card is compatible with GPU Acceleration go to Lightroom > Edit > Preferences > Performance.

If your system is compatible see the Adobe GPU FAQ page

In the second part of Where Is The Picture series we discussed the following topics in Ban Looking Begin Seeing

1 Where does your photographic inspiration come from, whose work do you appreciate?

2 Start to rely on your intuition and anticipation, follow up the “what if…” thought

3 “A photographer knows where to stand and when to press the button” – the decisive moment

4 Look for the essence of the attraction

5 Constantly practice observation and seeing pictures without a camera in hand

6 Work your chosen subject until you know you have the picture

7 Give yourself a brief and plan a set of related pictures

8 3 levels of seeing a picture

9 Be true to your photographic vision and style

10 Photograph the light not the landscape or any other subject matter

 

In part 3 of Where Is The Picture Series I will be contrasting the different definitions of looking and seeing.

 

 See you next time.