What Do You Talk About When You Talk Photography?

This photo was recently in a show at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center. I went to the opening. Didn’t know anyone. That’s not unusual. No problem. It’s always easy to start a conversation with a fellow photographer.

However, halfway into the evening, I noticed that some photographers wanted to talk about equipment. Some want to impress me with the places they’ve been. Some wanted to show me their photos and tell me and how they came to shoot that particular image.

I don’t talk equipment. I have good equipment but . . .

And I’ve been to some cool places but . . .

I enjoyed the photographers who wanted to show me their work. I’m not saying that’s good, bad, or better. That’s just my preference.

The photo shown here was the one in the show. It was taken with pretty standard Nikon equipment in a kind of cool place–off-road in the badlands of South Dakota. More interesting is how I stumbled over the broken bottle and the several ways that I tried to incorporated that bottle into images. Here, I asked my model to look through it. My model was an ex-priest, 72 years old, open, interesting and comfortable in his own skin. That last bit about being comfortable in his own skin has as much to do with the quality of the photo as the lens I was using. Other photographers will argue that with the right equipment you can capture even unwilling subjects and situations. Probably true. Not how I operate.

What do you talk about when you talk about photography?

BTW there was some good work in that show. I was proud to be included.

Show Opening in Fort Collins @ Center for Fine Art Photography

I’m excited to have a piece in the PORTRAITS show opening this Friday at The Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado.

The Center has a national reputation. I’ve tried several times to get into one of their shows. This time I’m in the show AND I get to have a portfolio review with Hamidah Glasgow–The Center’s director. Yay!

Show will be up through February. If you’re in Fort Collins, check it out at 400 N. College Ave 80524.

As part of the show, I was asked to write a description of this photo. Here’s what I said:

Marlene lives in Minnesota but loves the South Dakota Prairie. She particularly enjoys visiting an abandoned homestead there. In this photo, she is sitting in front of one of the homestead windows dressed in her petticoat because she wanted to imagine herself living there in a previous life. Her expression is almost distant enough to make that believable.

I like to let my subjects find their own sense of self and place. My challenge is to go to that place with them.

As a published novelist, I like to think I bring a writer’s sensibility to my photography. I believe a good image should stay with the viewer the way a good story does.

However, in a novel, I can slowly build a character and rewrite until it’s right. Not so with photography. That moment when Marlene let herself drift into another time was fleeting. No rewrites, I got it or I didn’t.

I love being challenged to see and think behind the camera. It keeps me fresh and sharp and observant. I came to photography later in life, after writing and teaching, but it has become my first love.

Puzzle of a Good Portrait

I have no idea what makes a good portrait. Natural light is best, I think. Relaxed atmosphere–yes. Bottom line: I know a good portrait when I see it but not one moment before.

I have a friend who has made a business out of portraiture, but even he goes into every session hoping some magic happens. Capturing the essence of a person is like grabbing for fairy dust. Good luck.

That said, here are some recent portraits that I like.

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Noon and Midnight

Noon and Midnight are times when most photographers don’t shoot. Midnight is obvious–little light. Noon is avoided because the light is harsh.

However, I like to shoot at noon or near noon when water (ponds, rivers) are involved. The harsh light can sparkle the water and cast shadows that look like night time. Check it out.

Clicking on the images will make them larger.starsbw3smmoonlightwater1sm

Architecture of a Photograph

When it comes to the composition of a photograph, I’m not sure “architecture” is a commonly used word but I think some photographs can only be discussed as being composed of interesting building blocks.

This one, for example has a large block of shadow at the bottom. The stick creates another seeming building block that connects the figure with the shadow. The light on the top of the figure’s head adds interest. Everything seems to work to hold the image together and give it heft.

What do you think?

Shadows are Complicated–Have Own Image

We all know that depending on the angle of the sun, shadows can be elongated or shortened.

Sometimes shadows can multiply or fatten or become the focus. You have to look carefully to see that.

Check out these two images of evening shadows caught on a cloth interacting with the form behind. Nothing simple about them.

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In this one, the shadow seems to walk away from the actual person casting that shadow.

 

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In this one, the shadow seems to be holding the cloth rather than the other way around.

Keep your eyes open. Notice shadows!!!!

Too Posed VS Just Right

One of the things I try to watch when working with models is the “too posed” shot.

Yes, the model is beautiful and graceful (she’s a dancer, after all ) and, yes, I like the fan of water coming off her hip, BUT this is a bad photograph.

It’s my problem, not the model’s. She is trying too hard to give me something and suddenly “strikes a pose.” If I take the shot, that’s my bad. What I need to do is give better direction. “OK, that’s good, but could you shake it out, relax, and then just be yourself,” is a good example. Or “Just let it happen.” Or “Great, but you’re working too hard. Just be yourself.”

Do whatever you need to do to get to this, which is a much-much better shot in the same situation. This one feels real. It is the way someone would react standing in a waterfall, especially a cold one.

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Karin Rosenthal Class on Cape Cod

If you get a chance to take a class from Karin Rosenthal–DO IT. If you get a chance to take a second class in a different place, DO IT. These are opportunities not to be missed.

I have been fortunate enough to take two classes from her. The latest was on Cape Cod, working mostly in ponds and forests in that area.

Here’s a photo of Rosenthal working with a model next to a lake, typical of one of her classes.

Her classes offer scenery–usually water. Great models. AND more important, a chance to have her critique your photographs. She takes that seriously. Sometimes she can be blunt! She wants nothing but the best to emerge from the photographers that she works with. That is the reason her classes are worthwhile. You grow as a photographer because she cares about photography–hers, yours, everyone’s. That is what makes her a good teacher, a generous one.

She regularly teaches classes in Vermont and on Cape Cod every summer. She is based in Boston. Check her website www.krosenthal.com

Here’s a photo that I took in her class. One of many that I like.

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