“Awareness of light changed the way I photographed for the better. Thought I had exposed hundreds of thousands of frames with both film and digital cameras, it wasn’t until I began to see and use the light that I was able to make the kinds of images that I had preconceived in my mind.”
“The awakening changed the way I photographed. But, more important, it changed the way I see, with and without a camera. The remarkable and awesome beauty revealed to me as a result of tuning into what’s happening with the light has been an amazing gift.”
Alcy and I spent a very intense day of photography yesterday. She is feeling frustrated with her new Nikon so we went to Glenwood with a note pad and spent a couple of hours photographing and rephotographing just to get down a routine. We finished up in Height’s Village doing the same thing. She went off to Galveston this morning for a couple of days of just her and the Nikon. Yesterday I wrote several pages of instructions which I insisted that she tear out and keep in her camera bag. There are many “technical” steps to taking a photograph but there were four that I wanted to emphasize:
1. Check the camera to be sure there is no compensation set—everything at zero (this is the one I most often forget)
2. Select your Point of View, decide what it is that you are photographing, what will be included, what will be excluded.
3. Determine the preferred Depth of Field, how deep do you need it to be sharp and why.
4. Select the Aperture that will give you the preferred Depth of Field.
This is a very simple list. Alcy has a very good eye for photos but she gets very frustrated with the operation of the camera. I will tell a story and when she gets back from Galveston she will probably kill me.
A few weeks ago we went to the Shangri La Botanical Garden in Orange. This was the primary destination. The previous day we had done a lot of photography and walking in Beaumont and Port Arthur for my Highway 287 Project, so when we arrive at the garden I was already a little worn down and I am not a botanical person. I was only there because Alcy wanted to see the garden and do some photography. I was there to assist with the camera operation. A few days prior to the trip Alcy had done a number of photographs of white Magnolia blossoms at Mercer Arboretum. They looked great on the LCD but when she got them on the monitor at home it was obvious that none of them were usable because the whites were totally blown out—a very common occurrence, especially with a new camera. At the garden she stopped to take a photograph of a white flower and I grabbed the opportunity to have a teaching moment. After she did the shot I asked her to bring up the histogram, the only reliable way to confirm exposure. After looking at the histogram and seeing that the whites were blown I suggested that she apply some minus EV correction. She stumbled around with locating the place to change EV and I feel certain I made some sort of comment—I usually say before I think. To which somewhat gruffly she replied, “I just want to set the camera on Automatic and take the picture.” Well that was the receipt for disaster that she had been following and it really stuck me the wrong way. Now I know I shouldn’t have let it bother me but my first thought was that here I was doing what I thought was my best to get her indoctrinated to a new camera and it appeared that she didn’t want to do anything more than take snapshots so I questioned to myself if it was really worth it. I said, “Well, set the camera on Automatic and take the picture.” Now that sounds pretty polite but I am sure it came out sounding more like, “Well, set the damn camera on Automatic and take the friggin’ picture” at least in tonality. I walked off.
I am sure that there were other factors that influenced my abruptness and the fact that her statement went all over me. I have been trying for quite some time to help other photographers achieve more with their photography. For three years I authored a photography discussion blog. For almost two years I have been writing a monthly book review to introduce photographers to authors that have something important to say about photography. I am either too stupid to convey what I would like to get across about photography or most photographers only want to put the damn camera on automatic and take the friggin’ picture. Nothing I have done seems to have had the least influence on the photographic behavior of anyone I know. I don’t claim to be anything special as a photographer but I do have a mindset about photography that I feel would be of benefit to other photographers. My five photographic principles seem to roll off their backs like water on a duck.
1. The photograph is not the object photographed. Why do photographers look at photographs and only see them as the object photographed? They are not. A photograph is an entirely new entity and should be seen as a photograph. Nobody looks at a painting of a flower and thinks it is a flower—why do that to a photograph?
2. There is no such thing as good photographic technique nor is there any such thing as bad photographic technique. There is simply technique applied appropriately or inappropriately.
3. Technique is the sentence structure of the photograph—use it to make a statement. It sure as heck in not the purpose of making the photograph but you wouldn’t know that from talking to a group of photographers. To teach the how of technique without teaching the why of technique is like copying letter by letter a foreign language while having no idea what it says then judging the results on how painstakingly the letters are reproduced rather than the meaning of the words.
4. Paining and photography are equal but mathematical opposites. A painter adds, a photographer subtracts. A painter starts with a blank canvas and MUST ADD the essential elements. A photographer starts with a canvas that is rich with elements and MUST SUBTRACT ALL BUT the essential elements.
5. Every photograph makes two statements; one about the object or objects photographed and the other about the photographer. Very often they say more about the photographer than the object photographed.