Technical considerations are definitely important. Sweating the details is what will make the difference between OK and wow. But there is always a time to stop being squeamish and just shoot!
The above is an example.
I saw this scene and barely had time to run and set up the equipment against a not-entirely-clean window. Shooting through windows is not normally a great idea but just look! This was not a scene to miss by obsessing on perfection.
We live in a sea of photography. Every day a wave of tsunami proportions of new images washes over us. Every image creator competes fiercely for a few precious seconds of your eyeball time. Every new technique is done to death. To be heard you must shout!
I was reading a post by an Austin commercial photographer named Kirk Tuck. He has a good blog about photography in general and the post is here:
Basically, I think he is right. I think we are all sorely tempted to jazz up the “KERPOW!!” factor on our images.
But could we live with them?
One thing I find I have always striven for is “livable” images. If I were suddenly wealthy one of the first things I would do is have the best of my work printed mural size and fastened to my walls. I strive to make images that I could live with.
The above image is one of my recent favourites from a trip to San Francisco. I thought it was very liveable but it seems I was distracted by the lovely colours and tones. They had blinded me to the flawed composition. A few minutes at full screen were enough to tell me that. I had to fix it before linking to it here.
It takes an awful lot to make a good photograph and very little to ruin it. Maybe it is time to look at your own photographs again. Are you making photographs you could live with?
Sometimes you just need a tripod and don’t have one. Other times you need two tripods and you only have one. This photo relates to the former. I am currently experiencing the latter.
Here’s the thing. Are you going to let life stop you just because you don’t have an 800WS monolight, or an 85mm f1.4 lens, or the latest super camera body? Good tools can certainly make the work easier and give better results than poor ones when skillfully and artfully used but even bad tools are better than no tools and you may be surprised at what you can build for yourself if you think through your exact requirements.
As I write this I am timing an eight minute exposure. I’ve taken a few frames tonight with the Crown and I like the way it looks out there on the balcony with the lights behind but, of course, it only looks like that on its tripod. What is the Retinette supposed to stand on to get the right angle? Why, my makeshift tripod. Here’s the bill of materials:
One Polaroid back for a large format camera
One TV remote control
One camera bag for a large format camera
One chair (stood on end) from inside the hotel room
One outside chair (already on balcony)
To assemble, simply stack all of the parts with the highest number at the bottom and the camera resting on top.
Now this is certainly not the finest tripod known to man. In fact, I won’t be surprised if I later find out that it shifted at some time during those eight minutes and ruined my shot. However, neither was the roof of someone’s Jeep a perfect tripod either. But without it, I would not have the picture you see above. If you later see the picture I made tonight then you might want to remember this emergency tripod recipe!
As I sit here in my San Francisco hotel room I really need to get to bed but the travel half way around the world seems to have whacked my body clock. So I’m exposing.
I made a very conscious decision on this trip that I didn’t want to be wasting my time getting sucked into “tourist snapping”. No digital, no 35mm SLR. I took only the Crown Graphic to force myself to be selective and not be tempted into any “casual” photography.
Large format is not casual.
However, I did want something carryable so I also took along my Grandfather’s old tourist camera from the 1950s — his Kodak Retinette. No exposure meter, no rangefinder for focus. Just a peephole for framing.
It is so freeing.
I’ve just taken two shots off the balcony at f11 and two minutes. Well, two minutes felt right. That should be about EV0. Assuming that there is iso100 film loaded in that camera. I’m actually not sure. Just did this last one about four minutes twenty. It should fill in the shadows a little more.
Now I’m off to try to sleep. I won’t see anything that I’ve taken until I get back. Maybe even some time after I get back depending how busy I am. I know I’ll have some thick tasty negatives to work with at some point. And that is good enough for me.