Getting Close 

Cowboy hats Not eaxctly bullet proof

Ford V8

c. Cat & Car

Blue bottles

People watching Ocean Tree

Watching the Rodeo

 

 

There is an old saying in photography that goes, “ If your photographs aren’t good enough, it’s probably because you aren’t close enough”.

I remember saying this to a young photographer, who became somewhat alarmed and responded, “You mean I should stop using my wide angle and shoot with a telephoto instead?” However, that isn’t what that long time photography quote is about.

What that means is that a photograph should be about something. That the photographer should discard, crop out, or, when making the original capture, move in close enough so that those elements visible in the image are the only things that relate to the photograph.

When I was just a young photographer I would question other photographers who I felt were successful at their craft for ideas that would make my photographs better, and I remember the following advice by a working photojournalist.

He talked about pre-visualizing a photograph (a term Ansel Adams and Minor White coined regarding the importance of imagining in your mind’s eye what you want the final print to reveal about a subject), and continued that a photographer should follow the rules of composition with all the elements in the scene, and finally told me I should always think about stepping closer to “tighten up” the image.

His advice came from a time period when very few photographers were using mutifocal or “zoom” lenses. In that time period quality glass and sharp images depended on fixed focal length lenses, or the more modern term is “prime” lens.

I will not go into a discussion of prime versus zoom lenses. Some people enjoy arguing about equipment, and they will pull out charts and make lots of tests to prove their point of view. Personally, I select a lens with which I am comfortable with and that I think will help me do the best job for the work at hand.

Getting closer changes the perspective and builds a relationship between the foreground and background. With a wide-angle or 50mm lens, the elements in the foreground become more important, and with telephoto’s 200mm and longer, they become less important and, as in a scenic taken with, say a 100mm, everything seems to have equal importance.

Teach yourself to look at the many features inside your composition. Start with the centre of interest or main subject, decide what in that composition relates to that centre of interest and then step closer to remove areas and features that have no relationship or interfere with whatever you want your viewer to concentrate upon.

Pre-visualise what you want to say visually and get closer to remove everything that doesn’t relate to the composition.

I remember reading an article written by a photographer I really enjoy, Ron Bigelow, www.ronbigelow.com. In an article he discussed his experience shooting with another photographer. However it was his summary that made me stop and think,   “I couldn’t help thinking of some of the extraordinary images that I have seen from various large format photographers. It was obvious to me that much of what I admired in their images had nothing to do with the very high resolution that their equipment produced. Rather, it had everything to do with the time that they put into each image. The observing, thinking, and preparation that occurred before they fired their first shot.”

The Annual Pritchard Rodeo       

Pritchard Rodeo

Canadian Flag

Bull wins

Cow-1 Cowgirl-0 Dustin

Lost the seat

Roper  Barrel racer

Barrel racer 2

Wild bronc

Bucked off Bareback ride

Hard ride

Cooling off ringside

As usual July has been a busy month, and, along with everything else, this past weekend had been one of my most looked forward to events to photograph, the annual Pritchard Rodeo.

I know I write about it every year, but I like talking about subjects that I take pictures of and there is nothing like fast paced subjects to keep photographers on their toes and rodeos, easy as they are to photograph, are always worth taking a camera.

The Pritchard Rodeo grounds are perfect for photographers. It has an arena that is enclosed with a strong metal fence that’s safe to stand close to and doesn’t restrict the photographer’s view. Of course, one has to be careful when excited horses are getting ready for competitions like the Barrel Race, but it is a rodeo and one must remember that the animals, like any other athletes, are focusing on what they are about to do, and not some silly person with a camera.

When photographing fast, volatile subjects like those at a rodeo I prefer shutter priority mode where I select the shutter, and the camera chooses the aperture. I like shutterspeeds of 1/500th or more if possible. One also must be aware of depth-of-field, and I balance my shutterspeed and aperture taking that into consideration.

All I do is follow the action, choose a position that allows everything to move towards me, and let the camera’s computer handle the rest. Yes, it’s all so easy for photographers, no matter what their skill, to get images worth framing.

I remember a friend telling me last year why he liked attending the Pritchard Rodeo. He said, “I like the wild location. Look at the hills, and trees, and all the open space. Everyone is so friendly, they say hello even though they don’t know me, and there is even a beer garden with people socializing, but no one is getting drunk, being loud, or causing trouble.”

My favorite activities to photograph are the bronc riding, and bull riding events. The action is explosive and I think the participants (horses, bulls, and riders) pitted against each other are well matched and one can never be sure who will win. I am of the opinion that both animals and humans know it is a game.

I also enjoy photographing barrel racing. What a great subject to photograph. Trying to capture what seems to me like a gravity-defying moment as horse and rider, fast and furiously, circle the barrel is exciting.

I am pretty lucky to have a local annual rodeo about five minutes from my home. I can go there to have fun, socialize with friends, and still get as many shots (that are keepers) of the rodeo as I can.

I said this last year and I will say it again. There should be a note saying,

“No animals, cowboys, cowgirls, or photographers were hurt during the process of having a great time.”

A Country Wedding.

 

 

Wedding

Wedding ride 2

Guest wagon

Kevin & Marci

Me too

Marcie's wedding

Country dancing

Just Married

 

My friend and neighbor, Kevin, called to tell me that he was getting married and asked if I would photograph his wedding.

Although I am pretty much retired, without hesitation I said yes, only asking the date. He continued, “It will be western casual and at our place”. With that I thought, “Well, of course,” and hanging up the phone I turned to my wife and said, “Kevin and Marci are getting married at the end of the month, I hope it’s an overcast day.”

Who knew British Columbia would be having such a record breaking, rainless, hot summer that steadily got hotter and hotter. So by the time Kevin and Marci greeted their guests who waited in large shade tents under a cloudless blue sky the temperature had reached 40 degrees Celsius.

I kicked up dust as I walked into the large coral glad of two things. The first was that my wife made me put on sunscreen and the second, was that high-speed flash sync had been invented.

I remembered the limiting days of film and the one-power-fits-all flashes with which we struggled. On a sunny day we’d load our camera with 50 ISO film, shoot at a high-sync of 1/60th or 1/80th per second depending on the camera and hope the flash didn’t blast the detail out of the wedding dress. On torturous bright days, like the one I was preparing to photograph my friends under, I’d use my favourite flash diffuser, a functional white handkerchief that served to reduce the flash and, when needed, wipe off the salty sweat that made my eyes sting.

I made my way to the plywood dance floor and took a of couple test shots using the DJ as my model. My goal was to slightly underexpose the background. I really don’t like those pictures of people standing in an overexposed environment.

After the ceremony we joined the newly married couple in horse drawn wagons brought over by neighbours, Ellen and Steve from The Ranch, and traveled through the trees to another location where family and guests patiently stood waiting for me to take group pictures. Then we all, bottled water in hand, loaded back in the wagons for the waiting wedding feast.

I wrote that Kevin told me the wedding would be western casual. I don’t know if the ties, vests, and dark, western-cut jacket that the groom, best man, and father of the bride wore were casual attire, but the hats and boots were western, and I will mention that most of the guests were wearing cowboy boots and hats, and boot-cut jeans were the norm.

As everyone enjoyed a meal under the shade of the large tents I snuck away to set up a portrait studio in the barn. My lighting was two speedlight flashes positioned behind a six-foot diameter shoot-through umbrella. I like the wide, undirected, soft light a shoot through umbrella delivers, and a large shoot-through like the one I employed in the narrow walkway between horse stalls in the barn gave a flattering light that allowed me to quickly and easily pose the bride and groom.

Then it was back to the dance floor for the first dance. And I worked my way around capturing photo after photo of Kevin and Marci as they showed everyone how country music should be danced to, then I stepped back so as not to block the many pictures being made by guests holding their cell phones at arm’s length for that perfect shot that I am sure was quickly posted on some social media site.

In spite of the heat I had a great time. And I am certain everyone enjoyed the day. I left before sun down, but later Marci told me things were hopping till around 2AM.

Since then I have seen more than one over-exposed, wedding pictures from at other events displayed with misplaced pride, and read photographer’s complaints about shooting under the bright sun, and working in the heat. My advice for them is to under expose, to use a flash, and not to forget sunscreen.