Group Shoots

I frequently shoot with several other photographers. We share the cost of the models and studio or travel. I like shooting that way. Means I can work with the model for a few minutes and then let someone else take over while I think about my next set-up or what I want to shoot before the time is up. Less pressure.

I know others who hate working this way. They don’t like having other photographers around. They find it distracting or worry that they will get photos that look like everyone else’s photos. That last one has never been a problem for me. I can shoot shoulder to shoulder with someone and never get the same shot. A slight difference in angle, equipment and eye can make a huge difference in what is actually captured.

This photo of a group shoot in South Dakota is fun because part of the group is off working with hay bales while myself and the photographer in the foreground are setting up a different shot. I took the picture because it was one of those “you have to be there” moments. If I tried to describe that scene . . .

Better to just grab a photo of it.

Open Wide–Now Scream

I’m amused at all the candid photos on Facebook that show people with the mouths open as if in surprise. Trendy? A reaction to older, more formal candid shots? There’s even an emoji with mouth open–also surprise. However, there is a big difference between an open mouth and a screaming mouth.

Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream is not expressing surprise or posing for a trendy candid. His scream begins at the toes and literally empties emotion. That scream is a protest.

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My scream photos are also seeking to express something beyond the trendy mouth-open shots. One is taken underwater. The other is reflected in glass. In both cases, I reminded the model of Edvard Munch’s painting and asked for a similar expression. My models did good jobs. And I think nudity, in this case, adds to the sense of vulnerability.

PS It’s also trendy to ask models NOT to express emotion. This school of thought wants to focus on the figure. I think real emotion is expressed by the whole body and sometimes that can be the focus. What do you think?

Click on photos for larger view.

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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.

Mother Nature Sings to Her Flowers–Mythic Storytelling Photos

There are photographers who picture reality–gritty street scenes is one example.

There are other photographers who go to great lengths to set up scenes often with disorienting, out of place aspects that jar the viewer’s sense of reality.

Somewhere between those two extremes are photos that add elements–like the veil here–that create a mythic/storytelling quality. Sometimes I like to introduce an element like this veil and see what happens. In this case, I’m pretty sure I actually photographed Mother Nature Singing to her Wild Flowers. It is a photograph that is larger–more mythic–that what I thought I was setting up. Magic is everywhere. Just wait for it.

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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Moab–What If Environment Is Overwhelming?

Went on a photo shoot in Moab with Rick Cummings and several other photographers. Moab is Utah’s red rock playground. The scenery is spectacular. It is large. It can be overwhelming. The challenge is to make great photos that don’t allow the environment to take over. Actually, managing the environment is always a issue. Moab just blows that problem way-way-way out of proportion. So what to do?

I tried doing the unexpected as in putting silhouettes against the iconic red rock and blue sky. See photo above.

I tried to forget the environment, pick up a broken bottle and zoom in on the figure.

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I tried letting the size of the environment overwhelm the figure because that was true to the experience.

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I tried capturing lots and lots of detail as well as the figure. Note there is even a second figure.

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I tried letting the shadow be the subject.

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What do you think? Love to read your comments on what worked and what didn’t.

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?