A wise photographer told me “when you can’t seem to find the photo. . . turn around or come in from a different angle” Where is the light in reference to the subject. Here is an example. During a cruse to the Caribbean last month I thought that great photographs would be easy picking. This was not the case for me. 90% of what I came up with was what I call postcards. It was not that these postcard photos were bad. But they were not ka-pow either. One afternoon I got out of the depressing downtown of cruise ship ports and out in the countryside. I came across a lady selling shells and tie die dresses. The color of the dresses grabbed my eye and I began taking photos of the dresses hanging on the line. The vendor lady began screaming at me “no photos” I figured that she wanted some money for me to take photos of the dresses. If she asked nicely I would have been happy to pay her. But the screaming didn’t help my mood. I walked behind the dresses where she could not see me. I managed to get off a few shots before she saw me and started up again.
Cowboy Rancher with flowers
Making a good photo that tells a story usually takes some thought. It is rare to pull your camera up and go snap, snap and have a unique photograph. This business of pulling the camera up fast and blasting the motor drive is probably productive for a sports photographer, a war photographer or any photographer who only has a fleeting moment to capture a shot. Many times creating a good photo takes some thought and is more of a zen approach than the gunslinger approach.
The photograph of the cowboy with flowers for his better half can be photographed in a number of different ways. You can go in from the front as a portrait or the back emphasizing the flowers behind his back or from above. I could probably give you a lot of reasons why I like this perspective the best. Most of all the photo is unique. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done this way. There just happened to be an air duct above the door going to the second floor of the house. A swiss army knife and a 60mm lens stuck down the vent just managed to get it done. . . at least for me.
Pickup Truck – painting
I was at the Santa Fe Photo Workshops. Arthur Meyerson was teaching. Arthur is a great photographer from Houston Texas. It was raining in Santa Fe that day. Our usual workshop schedule was to break for lunch then go out and shoot after lunch. As I was waiting in the lunch line I looked out the window and saw the photo posted above. Since I had my camera on me I began to photograph through the window. Rule #1 carry a camera if you want to take pictures. I think people were thinking I was nuts. This is one of my favorite shots ever. It is not photoshop, it is water on window. It was my French painter on acid period.
Hot Air Ballon
Every year there is a hot air balloon festival in Albuquerque. There is color galore! Photographers eye candy. As the sun comes up the pilots start to inflate the balloons. The beautiful early morning light that lasts just a short time, the mad action of inflating the huge balloons and the color of the hot air balloons is an opportunity to get some really great photographs. You need to be fast! The light is only magic for a short time and in less than thirty minutes most of them will be over your head. However, with a little pre-planning and some greased palms you might be able to hop into the basket of one of these and get even more images. To me this was the iconic image of the morning. There were many more to be had.
Sometimes it is the color in the photograph that makes it unique. In this case it was Kodak’s EIR film. Sometimes it’s the subject. Usually it’s both.
Sometimes you can pick the right place and wait for the photo to come into frame. As with any discipline it takes commitment, effort and time. In this case I sat down to steady the camera and shot may photos from the wrong position as things progressed. I could have and should have moved my position and actually got the kayakers face in the shot. Duh! On the other hand this shot does not require a model release.
One of our greatest living photographers, Jay Maisel, speaks often about “going out empty.” Jay carries a camera all the time as does Arthur Meyerson and Seth Resnick. I can’t remember ever seeing any of teem without one. Each of these guys give wonderful talks and awesome workshops. Jay always hammers home the importance of going out empty. Some days it can be raining so hard that you can’t go out. If you’re empty you can see the truck through the wet window.
Photography is about seeing. . . NOT about the latest and greatest camera.
Photography is also a state of mind that allows you to see the world not just in front but behind, above and below you. Taking time to work an image from different points of view enables you to understand your subject and craft the image that is important to you. Interesting images are all around you if you are open. One simple fact is you can’t take or make a photograph if you don’t have a camera with you. The more often you carry a camera the better photographer you will be. If you’re serious about improving your images ~ have your camera on your shoulder. Remain relaxed and look around. If you leave your camera in the bag it will stay nice and shiny but you may miss a lot of great shots. What is more important to you? better images or a shiny low mileage camera? The more you carry your camera the better you will become.