Photographing in the garden on a stormy day                                   

 

During my many years enjoying the exciting medium of photography I have photographed all most anything that happened to be in front of my camera.

I haven’t bothered with restrictions or claimed specialties. Sure, I have worked for all kind of clients, and most of the images I produced included people. That was how I put bread on our table for years. But when it came to my personal photography I always have been, and still am, an opportunist.

The process of creating an image on a roll of film or capturing data on my camera’s sensor excites me. Thinking the picture through, capturing a feeling and making technical decisions stimulates and excites me. However, I will admit all that also drains me. Photography has never been relaxing.

When I go out to photograph something it’s hard for me to think about anything else. Back when I when I spent almost every weekend photographing weddings my wife learned to just leave me alone. Nevertheless, over the past 40 plus years I did find a way to relax. No, not getting drunk.

No matter how wired I am or how mad something (or someone) has made me, if I pick up my camera and wander my wife’s garden the tension drifts away. I suppose any garden or quiet wooded area would work as well.

My wife could find enjoyment walking, smelling and looking at her flowers, but I don’t really care about the flowers unless I am pointing my camera at them. Where the colours would have mesmerized her, I would be thinking about how some plant’s tonality would look as a black and white photograph.

This week the storm clouds have been coming at me from all directions, not just the sky. Some photographers might chose to search out large birds that frequent the river or lakeside, while others would select the nearest sporting event to work out frustrations. I have friends that seek out the camaraderie of others and spend time in their studio creating masterful portraits. But for me a solitary walk, searching out shapes in a garden always lifts my mood or at least helps me cope with the storm clouds in my head.

Wednesday was as stormy as my mood and the clouds were darkening the landscape. There was a time when low light was bothersome for photographers, but with the technological marvels we now hang around our necks, low light is no problem at all. I just selected ISO 800, (I could easily have gone to ISO1600 or higher) and kept my shutterspeed at 1/250th to reduce camera shake and started taking pictures.

As readers know I prefer to use a flash to balance the overall exposure. In this case I mounted a ring flash on my wife’s 70-180 macro lens. I usually like to use a tripod, but I needed to walk and besides I was pretty sure I was going to get wet.

On flat overcast days it isn’t the colours that attract me, it’s shapes, interesting locations and the position of the plants. I spent a lot of time lying on the ground shooting at plant level.

The nice thing about using a flash is one can easily brighten or darken the background by either slowing down or speeding up the shutterspeed. And when the background has fewer details I stop down my aperture to disguise elements by under exposing them.

An afternoon garden is quiet, the plants are just there waiting and unlike locations with people one doesn’t have to engage in conversation.   How does it work for me? I like this quote by American photographer Annie Leibovitz, “The camera makes you forget you’re there. It’s not like you are hiding but you forget, you are just looking so much.”

 

What Inspired or Inspires you to do Photography     

Inspiring Viewpoint 2

Palouse river canyon 2

 

 

 

A member of a photography site I frequented some time ago posed the question, “What inspired you?”

I took that to mean what inspired you as a photographer?

One would think that a question on a photographer’s website page would be a great opportunity for photographers to talk about those that encouraged, influenced, or affected their development in this exciting medium.

Anticipating discussions on celebrated photographers who had inspired others on that forum to get into photography I looked forward to reading members replies. However, I was surprised and disappointed with how few took the time to respond, and those that did seemed silly by only naming long gone painters like Rembrandt. Rembrandt? Not one member on that photographer’s forum mentioned another photographer.

Unable to contain myself I wrote, “I was inspired to do photography by photographers not painters. Those I admired and inspired me at different times include Man Ray, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Arnold Neuman, Gregory Heisler, Sarah Moon, Sheila Metzner and Annie Leibovitz. I must also mention scenic photographers like Elliott Porter, Ansel Adams, Edward Steichen and Edward Weston.”

Today I sent a friend a picture I had taken of him and several other friends in the early 1970s. I remembered at that time I was rarely without a camera, and how frustrating that was to some that just got tired of my constant picture taking. That’s when I recalled the preceding post on inspiration and my response.

I suppose there are painters and sculptors I like, but do they inspire my photography? No not really – I look to photographers for that. The first photographer and artist that inspired me all those years ago was Man Ray. It was after viewing his fascinating pictures that I began to study photography.

However, it is the second photographer on my inspiration list, Richard Avedon that I’ll quote here, “I think many photographers create in order to survive, both emotionally as well as financially. For a photographer, taking a photo is just as important as breathing”.

Sometimes when I see a photograph that I like I get excited. I might not be able to go to the location or find the subject of that picture, but it still makes me want to grab my camera and begin searching for something. I could say that photograph inspired me to create one of my own in my own personal way.

In my list to that forum I forgot to include the famous Canadian nature photographer and author, Freeman Patterson. I think any photographer interested in photographing gardens or landscapes will find inspiration in his photographs and his writing. Patterson wrote,  “Seeing, in the finest and broadest sense, means using your senses, your intellect, and your emotions. It means encountering your subject matter with your whole being. It means looking beyond the labels of things and discovering the remarkable world around you.”

There are many things and people that inspire me, too many to write down here, but the original post was on a photographer’s forum, so it’s photographers not painters that I thought about. There are many photographers past and present whose images are worth searching for, looking at, learning from, and of course, gaining inspiration from that will surely affect one’s own photography.

I always enjoy everyone’s comments. Please don’t hesitate if you have a moment.

Thanks, John

Why You Should Be A Photographer

Accessory   Linda Photographer

picking the view

getting the shot

shooting Field patterns

I recently received an email from a friend that included a fun article titled, “54 Reasons Why You Should Be a Photographer.”

The author, Lauren Lim, began with, “Being a photographer is seriously awesome.” And continues, “I’ve compiled 54 really fantastic (reasons)…After you read all these reasons you’ll probably be even more inspired by this medium, and be itching to get out and shoot more.”     Reading that introduction intrigued me and, of course, I agreed with him when he wrote, “I think everyone should get into photography. You don’t ever have to do it professionally. That’s not what being a photographer means. Being a photographer just means you really love photography.”

The list of “54 reasons why you should be a photographer” didn’t really include 54 different reasons; it was pretty much made up of the same reason written over and over in different ways. However, I did select seven that I really liked and I think they are prefect as to why anyone should practice the art of photography.

1. “Capture a memory that you can have forever.”

2. “See the beauty (I’ll add the words, through you lens) every day.”

3. “It’s a creative outlet.”

4. “Share your perspective.”

5. “Express yourself.”

6. “Tell a story”

7. “Can make other people think.”

The exciting medium of photography began with inventors like Joseph Nicephore Niepce, when he succeeded in creating the first permanent image. Louis Daguerre with the “Daguerreotype” and Henry Fox Talbot’s “Calotype” that were instrumental in helping us with the first of that list, ““Capture a memory that you can have forever.”

There were the pioneers of photography like Ansel Adams, Galen Rowell and Eliot Porter that showed use how a photograph would help us, “See the beauty everyday.”

Jerry Uelsman, Duane Michals, Edward Seichen and Man Ray were among the first to split with traditional photographers and might even have said, “It’s a creative outlet.”

When I read the words, “Express yourself.” I immediately thought of the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe and Annie Leibovitz.

The last two about how photography can, “Tell a story.” and “Can make other people think.” Absolutely had me thinking about the wartime photography of Robert Mapplethorpe and Annie Leibovitz. and street photographer, Weegee.

I only mentioned those photographers that had a hand in the beginnings of photography and started us all thinking of the things we all might add to that list. And I am sure without hesitation readers can add pages of modern photographer’s names.

If you feel the urge, be sure to let me know if you have additions to “Why you should be a photographer”.

As for me I’ll just be content with Lim’s words, “Being a photographer is seriously awesome.” And “Being a photographer just means you really love photography.”

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

Some Thoughts on Portrait Photography

Model 2portrait by Enmanm

Photographers have been making portraits since the first camera was invented. In spite of the popularity of landscape, wildlife, and sports photography, I believe that most of the pictures that have been made, and still being made, are portraits of people.

Peter Bunnell in Creative Camera International Year Book 1977 wrote,  “There is no single form or style of portraiture. Portraiture means individualism and as such means diversity, self-expression, private point of view. The most successful images seem to be those which exist on several planes at once and which reflect the fantasy and understanding of many.”

I like that because I recall being bothered by my college photography instructor’s contention that we should always follow what he referred to as rules for portraiture. Guide lines possibly, but rules? When I examined the great portrait photographers like Irving Penn, Arnold Newman, Bert Stern, Richard Avedon, Eve Arnold, and Annie Leibovitz, to name a few, in my opinion they are anything but rule followers.

One might be able to recognize the photographic work of Penn, Avedon, or Leibovitz and casually use the words “that’s their style”. However, what marks their work, as Brunnell says, is “individualism .…..self-expression, (and a) private point of view.”  That is a lot to aspire to for mortal photographers as we struggle to make our portraits something more than mere documentaries.

When I approach portraiture I try to create portraits that are, well, creative. Sometimes everything works and sometimes it doesn’t.  I want something different in each.

Of course, one must be aware of how a person sees themselves and the circumstances and conditions under which the portrait is made, and I always (using a word coined by Minor White) previsualize the final portrait.  In Ansel Adam’s writings on photography he defined previsualization as, “The ability to anticipate a finished image before making the exposure.”

I know that for a successful portrait the person I am photographing needs to be the main point of interest. I am aware that a way to capture the attention of the viewer one could fill the frame with the subject’s face so there’s really nowhere else to look.

Sometimes it’s the expression on a subject’s face that makes the image. And to get that expression the photographer and subject may need to experiment with different moods and emotions.  Portraitists spend much time putting people at ease and making them comfortable in front of a camera. I think it’s all about gaining a person’s trust that we are going to help them look the best they can.

Some photographers get stuck in a rut by only shooting either horizontally, or vertically, or always from the same angle. To them I suggest mixing up framing in each portrait session so there will be a variety of images.

The internet is packed with “How to” advice on portraiture photography. Some of it is worth thinking about and some is bewildering. Those serious about bettering his or her portrait photography will select what works best and is the most comfortable.

Everything comes down to one’s personal definition of what a portrait is. According to Wikipedia, “it is a picture of a person, a description. It can be a photograph, a sketch, a sculpture, but a portrait is so much more than that. It is collaboration between the subject and in this case the photographer.”  Collaboration is the key word for me in that description, and in my experience those portraits I have made that I think are the most successful, is because the person who was in front of the camera was willing to work, or collaborate, with me towards the final image.

Following up on last week’s column there has been lots of discussion by the photographers that attended the strobist meetup. What lens worked, thoughts and suggestions on the lighting, and on posing models. We have been looking at each other’s pictures from that day, and a good critique among friends on what worked and what didn’t is always welcome and fun.

As always, I appreciate your comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com