I’ve been taking a deep dive into the world of a couple of different painters over the Christmas holiday. The first that I wanted to share here was Gerhard Richter. For much of Richter’s early work he used photographs as source material. Many of these source photographs can be seen in Richter’s scrapbook of source material The Atlas. Some of these paintings are remarkably realistic. I must admit however that I like his abstracts much more. These are large scale paintings made with a tool of his own design. Click here to see a documentary that shows Richter talking about his photographs and at work making some of these large abstracts.
There are images everywhere. No really there are.
Regardless of whether you live in an area that people would travel to because of it’s natural beauty, or whether you live in an area that people feel they need to leave to experience natural beauty there are images to be made. The skill that we need to learn is to see them. This is something that takes practice. Freeman Patterson’s book ‘Photography and the Art of Seeing‘ is a great place to start. A new edition just came out – it’s exceptional and should find a home on every photographer’s shelf.
Learning to see the possibilities around you means carrying a camera around with you and using it every day. For me there are days when that’s not an issue at all and then those other days when I’m running to stay in one place, not so easy. But I keep trying.
I’m finding with the iPhone that I enjoy the exploration of image after taking it, at least as much as taking it in the first place. The image above was taken while I was waiting for my son to be released from school the other day. I played with it in photoforge and phototoaster.
“If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”
I love the quote above from David Allen, the productivity guru most well known for Getting Things Done or the ‘GTD System’. It’s so right, on so many levels. Ignore the things that you should be doing and they will demand your attention, even if only to stop you from sleeping because you’re thinking about those issues as you try to nod off.
It was this David Allen quote that I was mindful of when I was away in Martha’s Vineyard a week or so ago but really in a very different way. I do find it difficult to photograph if I’m not fully present and this can take some time to get to if there’s all kinds of other stuff unrelated to the scene in front of me that I’m thinking about. Fortunately I have no problem quieting everything else to focus on what’s in front of me, although it can take 15 – 20 mins and a couple of hundred frames to get into the zone.
What I am aware of though, is that I can be so intently focused on the scene that I have framed that I frequently ignore the moments when my intuition tells me there’s a great photograph to be had. This could be paying attention to some stuff that I would consider to be a little weird – such as the image of the shells and seaweed above – and would normally walk by, simply reframing from the position that I’m already in or could involve a bit of a wander to get to a place where the light is doing interesting things.
How clear what the photograph is also varies – it can be crystal clear or could take a bit of work to get there. The work usually typically involves simplifying the image so that it has just the elements critical for whatever caught my eye, whether it was interesting light, a vivid color or something odd happening such as how the waves came together in the image below.
I feel that some of my better photographs have been in response to listening to my intuition and so, as is the case in many aspects of life, paying attention to what has your attention is equally applicable to photography and is a work in progress for me.
I have had a lot of fun so far this year looking for ways that I can bring a sense of motion into my photographs. To do that I have been experimenting with moving the camera. One series of experiments involved panning with a slow shutter speed, both vertically and horizontally, a variety of different subjects. Some of the results I quite liked and I will continue on with those ideas. On the day I took the photograph above I was headed back to the car after a morning shoot. Although I wasn’t ready to be done, the sun was too bright for the kind of photographs that I prefer. As I walked back down the road I noticed a patch of rocks that had interesting colors. The straight shots I made were okay, but wanting something different I tried both panning the camera and rotating the camera. The result of rotating the camera is shown above.
I find Eliot Porter’s style of intimate landscapes particularly powerful. I recently came across the video below, ‘A Look Back’, a documentary put together shortly after his death in 1990. I quite enjoyed it and hope that you will too. You can find out more about Eliot Porter on the web here. Many of his books can be found used on amazon.com and are well worth looking out for.
The older I get the more that shiny and new has limited appeal, with the exception of new camera gear of course! The bag that I’ve carried files around in for the last 5 or 6 years has had all the rough edges worn off, my 10 year old jeep gets me where I need to be be when I need to be there. I have a hankering for a new SUV, a mid-70’s Ford Bronco but that’s another story. So it ought not be a revelation to me that the things that catch my eye are those things with character. That was the case when I was out for a walk around the harbor in Scituate when this well used telephone pole caught my eye. It’s clearly see many posters in it’s time and will likely see more in the future.