Aimlessly Pontificating on Photography

Posts tagged “judgment

Five Best, Part 3 – My Top 5.

My blog has moved, see the new site at http://blog.badlightgoodlight.com

This will be the last of my five best of series to mark my passing the 6 month point of my project to take a picture every day for a year. This one was actually the hardest of the the set to choose. To pick a five best in a specific category was not difficult because the potential choices were fairly limited.

Choosing a five best overall though was difficult; in part because there are so many I really like and there are also quite a few that even if they aren’t very good, have an interesting story to go with them.

Anticipating

Only one part of judging a photo is assessment of outright technical merit. Often the photo taken with consummate technical perfection is the least likely to please viewers and obversely a photo which is technically flawed will win compliments.

Far more important to judging whether a photo is good or not is the viewer’s own preferences and prejudices. The photo of my wife (on the right) was taken just 2 days before she delivered our daughter, Mira. Any expectant mother will know that look on her face and will probably like this shot.

I deliberately boosted the contrast in this photo to give a harsh feel to the photo and accentuate Sharon’s distressed and uncomfortable look. The blown highlights are mostly deliberate, but degrade the technical aspect of the photo.

She was very annoyed at having to pose for me when she was so uncomfortable, but I expected that and used it to my advantage. I didn’t really want a photo of her where she looked comfortable and relaxed.

Shelter on a rainy day

Next up is the best shot in this post. On the left is an image that won a challenge on DPReview (one of the premiere camera review websites). Nothing major, but gratifying nonetheless.

I reached to work a little after 7 a.m. on a rainy day. There were several large puddles of water and I went out to try and get some nice reflecting shots. On the way back to the office I spotted him out the corner of my eye and stopped and asked to take a picture.

He was reluctant at first, but eventually obliged. I was in two minds about stopping and asking, not really an easy thing to do, but I am so pleased I did.

Because of the soft, even lighting resulting from the heavily overcast sky, the colours were very saturated, almost cartoonish. I did like how it looked initially because I like bright colours. But the bright colours didn’t really suit the mood of the image. One of the largest changes I made was to reduce the saturation of the image.

Brothers

If you have had a look at my photographs you might notice that I really like to take photographs of people. It doesn’t really matter much to me what situation they are in; posed, candid, street photography or any other situation you might find people.

I think there are cases where people can be intrusive; landscapes and architectural for example. And there are specific types of photography which cannot include people. But I think almost any scene can be livened up by having some people in it. One of my favourite albums to post to is my people album. I am always happy when I have an image to post to that album.

The point is, of my top five images for the past six months three of them are of people. It is no coincidence.

In this case I tracked the brothers for a while, as they were walking down the sidewalk. When I saw them about to cross the street I was almost hopping up and down in anxiety hoping for them to cross where I wanted them to. The next issue was for their steps to synchronize. I must have take a dozen photos of them in the 10 seconds or so it took them to cross the street.

Knotted

I had to include this image (to the left). Quite apart from the fact that I do think it is one of my best for the year so far a lot of thought went into constructing this one. I am certain that I would not have been able to take this photo had I not started this photo a day project.

I did a comprehensive “making of” post on this image a short while ago and don’t propose to repeat that.

I didn’t find the scene having looked specifically for it. I just saw the juxtaposition of the knotted rope set against the diamond pattern lattice wall and recognised the potential.

It is an enhanced ability to recognise this potential that taking a photo per day for a year has brought me. I started taking photos seriously early 2007 when I got a new camera. I had that camera for nearly 3 years and took about 8,600 pictures in that time. Since I sold that camera and got the new one (and thanks partly to my photo a day project) I have taken over 11,000 in nine months.

This quantity comes not only because I have to take at least one photo each day, but because I am recognising more interesting scenes and actually stopping to take a picture, when in the past I might have moved on.

Taking on passengers

With respect to this final image of my top 5 I think I may be biased because it happens to be one of the more recent of my favourites. There is a good chance that it may not survive in my top photos list, but at the moment I really like it.

At least part of that liking comes from the fact that it is an accidental photo. I had intended to take a photo looking up the street. I set my tripod and carefully waited until the traffic lights at the corner (out of frame) said go, so that I would get some light trails as the vehicles drove past (see here for an example).

Unfortunately (or fortunately) this minibus pulled up right there to offload his passengers. At the time I thought it was a disaster. Had he moved off quickly enough the bus would have faded to a ghostly shadow as he would not have been in the scene long enough to firmly expose on the camera sensor. I was so annoyed when he refused to move.

It was not until I got home late that evening that I decided that this totally accidental shot was the one I liked best. It just goes to show that in photography, as in anything else, luck can often play a big part.

Given the difficulty I’ve had picking my top five for the last six months I am not sure I am looking forward to repeating the exercise at the end of the year to chose my top ten.

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Shadows.

My blog has moved, see the new site at http://blog.badlightgoodlight.com

I was discussing with a friend a little while ago about what a photograph should be. This isn’t a new argument between us, it has been going in one form or another for years. As we have grown and talked more and thought about things our thoughts have matured but remained essentially the same at heart.

The issue is this; what should a photograph be?

Anyone who is passionate about photography will recognise this as the loaded question it is. To a professional the question likely doesn’t matter much. The question of what a photograph should be is usually answered by the parameters of the job.

An amateur (people like me), however, with nothing to do but talk about photography endlessly; about how bad their cameras are, how much better their photographs would be if they had better camera, how noisy brand x is, how much better than their own camera brand y is; in other words, anything but actually going out and taking photographs; relish these questions. Questions like what a photograph should be, are endlessly fascinating.

To my point: For my friend (with whom I always argue) a photograph should be representative of the scene in front of the camera and should only be taken of something that is inherently “interesting” (a nice sunset, for example). His position isn’t that simple, of course, but I have to simplify for the sake of illustration. My understanding of what my friend is saying is that a photograph should not embellish or represent the scene in any way, other than the way it is presented on the frame of a camera pointed directly at the scene. A forensic approach I call it.

I don’t want to give people what they expect, I want to give them what they didn’t originally think of. That way, after they have seen my picture, it will not be what originally attracted them to the scene that they remember. It will be my picture.

I believe that when people see a picture of a particular “feature” of what the scene originally was, as long as they recognise it, it will hopefully evoke the feeling that they originally felt (like a smell evoking a memory, for example). If my photograph is of something they have never seen before, then it should evoke an emotion which will cause them to remember my picture of the scene.

And that is the bottom line, people don’t remember something that doesn’t arouse a feeling in them. People remember the things that make them think. Whether it is disagreement, pleasure, puzzlement, anger or something else.

So all of that didn’t really answer the question I posed. Sorry. This is my answer, it may or may not be the right one and it most certainly is not the only one. Photography is an art form, it is what we want it to be. So even though my friend and I will continue to argue about this endlessly, I believe that even his forensic approach can be art. A photograph should be, then, whatever the photographer determines that he wants it to be.

So why did I name this post “Shadows”? I did mention that I have a different (not necessarily unique though) take on most scenes than most people. For me, this (and many other things) is what a photograph should be:

Or this:

Or this:


Origin of a name.

My blog has moved, see the new site at http://blog.badlightgoodlight.com

It’s my birthday today, it seems appropriate that I would start something new. The name of this blog was inspired by a recent comment made by a professional photographer to a photo taken by one of my friends. He suggested that my friend might have been better served if he used the “correct” lens to take the photo.

I took umbrage at this (perhaps unfairly) because a good photo is a good photo, regardless of the method used in its creation. We have all these rules about what should be done and not done to create a “proper” image and I do think that it is critical to know and be intimately familiar with the rules, because it is only when you are than you can know when the rule book should be thrown out the window.

So why “Bad Light, Good Light”? Because it is recited as dogma that certain light is “bad” for photography and certain light is “good”. High noon is bad, sunrise/sunset is good. It is dogma. I read it somewhere sometime ago, where it was said that light can’t be bad or good, it is merely different. It was quite the revelation. I’ve never forgotten that, I used to recite the Bad Light, Good Light dogma myself, without a second thought.

The dogma is no different whether you are told that a particular lens is the “wrong” lens or the Rule of Thirds/Golden Section/Diagonal must be applied or Sports requires fast shutter speeds, and cetera.

I am certainly not suggesting that the “rules” be discarded, whatever they might be, but it seems unfortunate to assess a photograph first on the basis of whether the rules were followed and only in passing, whether it is a good photo or not.

In conclusion, may I present what I think is quite a good photo, taken in very “bad” light; late afternoon:

Bad Light