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There is an unnervingly common trait among photographers, image makers, picture people, etc. Sometimes we forget that the reason we have access to such awesome gear and techniques, is because those who came before us in our trade figured them out, practiced them, advance them, and then left us a legacy of knowledge. The further we go back through the history of photography, the more prevalent this apathy becomes. What do you have to learn from someone who used a camera less advanced than a garage door opener? Well, as it turns out, we stand to learn a lot. Maybe not from a technological standpoint, but rather in a more intangible way that’s more difficult to appreciate, and easy to miss. This is not to say that you can’t improve your photography from studying the methods of some of the masters. Their gear was varied and less advanced, but that only makes their work more extraordinary, and their skill even more humbling.
Even if the name doesn’t ring some little bell in your memory, chances are you most likely have viewed his work at some point. He was literally the inventor of the photojournalistic style… let that sink in for a minute or three. Before Cartier-Bresson, proper street photography as we know it and “still life reportage” as he called it was not a well practiced, or validated form of photography.
Born into a relatively well placed upper-class French family in 1908, Cartier-Bresson, like so many well known photographers, didn’t start out intending to be such. Painting was his major pursuit before picking up a camera. That all changed in 1931 when he set his eyes upon a photograph made by Hungarian photographer Martin Munkacsi. It was an image of three young boys in the surf of a lake in Africa. Cartier-Bresson said that he “couldn’t believe such a thing could be caught with a camera” and that he “suddenly understood that a photograph could fix eternity in an instant.” The photograph drove him to relinquish painting, and start making photographs. He was thoroughly a recorder of the spontaneity of human experience. There is much you can learn from Henri Cartier-Bresson to improve all aspects of your photo making.
Lessons you can learn from Henri Cartier-Bresson:
Strive to be invisible
When you’re working as a photographer it doesn’t take long to understand that humans tend to drastically change once they realize they are being photographed. Their mannerisms, expressions, and appearances all become noticeably different. Conspicuousness steals away realism very quickly if you are not careful. Cartier-Bresson understood this and moulded himself into somewhat of a photographic ninja. He shot with relatively small cameras, usually Leica 35mm Rangefinders. You have to understand that most photographers of his time were using larger format cameras which practically screamed “Hey, I’m making a photograph of you!!!” Anonymity allowed him to capture the essence of any scene in a way that was raw and unobtrusive.
Cartier-Bresson went so far as to conceal all the shiny surfaces of his gear with black paint to further decrease his footprint as a photographer. You might not want to go that far, but it will help you to capture better images if you blend into your surroundings. Plan for your sessions in a practical way. Don’t take more gear than you need, and keep a low profile. Try to wait until you’re ready to make an exposure before you raise your camera. Practice using your camera’s controls and memorize their placement. Also, avoid using a flash if it will likely interfere with your subject. Cartier-Bresson supposedly never used a flash for his images as he saw them as impolite and distracting. Photography, especially photojournalism, depends on the earnest capture of life in all its beauty, and regrettably, its occasional misery. Try to keep it real, literally.
Compose in camera
I know, I know. You’ve probably heard this before, and are most likely tired of having that phrase hurled at you. I feel your pain. I would always roll my eyes any time a seasoned photographer or well intentioned writer would talk about the importance of getting things right in-camera. Let’s be real here. It’s so easy to crop an image on the computer instead of using the camera’s viewfinder. It’s so much more convenient to salvage a less than correctly exposed image than to think through your aperture and shutter combinations. Post processing is a wonderful thing. Completely changing a photograph, however, is not always ideal. Cartier-Bresson was absolutely anti photo manipulation and believed any photograph should be cropped in the viewfinder before it was captured. Nearly all of his photographs were printed full-frame and even included about one millimeter of the unexposed negative so that his finished prints sported a thin black border to further prove the absence of cropping.
Any image is only as good as the ingredients put into its making. So try to put the best possible ingredients into your work so that your finished product will be something you will be proud to display and say “I made this”.
Focus as much on the art as the science
What we do as photographers would have been considered magic in an earlier time. Even at the basic level it is an amazing science. We record light that is completely unique and fleeting. You will never make the exact same photograph twice. The science of image making is an essential part of our creative process, but it must never be viewed as the only part.
Surprisingly, Cartier-Bresson expressed, on multiple occasions, his almost complete lack of interest in the more technical portion of making photographs. The developing and printing of his negatives, actions so carefully controlled and guarded by most serious photographers of the time, were valid only to him in the cases where they allowedmore effective expression of his vision. He saw the camera as a tool, and development and printing as merely a means to a much anticipated end. He said “people think far too much about techniques and not enough about seeing”.
You can lose your direction during the of making an image. Sometimes we let technical perfectionism overshadow our initial vision. Thorough knowledge of your gear is essential to grow as a photographer. However, like Cartier-Bresson tells us, don’t allow yourself to become so focused on your tools that you forget your craft.
Alfred Stieglitz was born into this world on January 1, 1864 and left it on July 13, 1946. Anything else that I can tell you about the impact of man’s life upon the world of photography and creative art will fall unbelievably short of the full measure of gratitude we owe him as photographers. That’s not hyperbole. Before Stieglitz, photography was not considered a form of artistic expression. There were no real schools of photography, and it certainly was not considered high art on the level of painting and sculpture. Stieglitz gave artists an outlet to show their work to the public, and was the catalyst that helped begin the careers of many celebrated artists including the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe, and the legendary photographs of the great Ansel Adams. Stieglitz was always open to new techniques and innovative thinking towards art.
His work is removed from our time by nearly a century, and many of the technical mechanisms he used are now obsolete. Still, there is much insight to be gained from Alfred Stieglitz, and his contributions. We can learn from his approach to the art world as a whole, to better ourselves as photographers.
Lessons you can learn from
Express yourself when you can
Stieglitz created a series of images called “Equivalents”. It is a collection of photographs that show a variety of different cloud formations. Each image was a self-reflection of the thoughts, emotions, and experiences that he was feeling at the time the frame was exposed. That made each image unique to only him. He was the only person who truly understood how he felt during each release of the shutter. So go out and photograph something that makes you happy. Share it with others if you want, or just keep it for yourself. Go and make photos of something that is only beautiful, or meaningful to you. The act in itself is very freeing. You might be thinking “I express myself with all my work”, but really think about it for a moment. Do you ever make a photograph and immediately consider how it might be accepted or rejected by other people? Do you sometimes share an image that you personally think is outstanding but no one else seems to care about? We have all done it more often than we might comfortably admit.
Break the rules if you want
Simply put, any photograph that has ever been produced, resulted from of a combination of the following variables: size of aperture, shutter speed, depth of field, focal length, image receptor sensitivity and composition (film, digital sensor, ect) and that’s all. The key to making a great image is putting all those pieces together in such a way that they convert what was only visible within your own mind, into a photograph. Those are the only iron clad rules in photography. In the end it’s you who make the choices and operate the camera.
Some really great work has resulted from stepping outside the mainstream. There are many stunning images that completely ignore the rule of thirds, leading lines, horizons, and so forth. Never completely cast aside guidelines, but don’t convince yourself that you are permanently tied to them either. Learning, and practicing, the tested and proven building blocks of strong photography will help you greatly. Just remember that ground breaking work often arises from the bending of rules.
Look for inspiration everywhere
Stieglitz promoted all art forms. He opened galleries to display the works of painters, sculptors, and of course photographers. He didn’t limit himself to only photography, or painting or to works fashioned from stone and clay. Instead, he drank it all in. He recognized that it was all tangled together and intertwined.
As photographers we are able to almost instantly project what sometimes takes other artists days or weeks, or even months to create. However, this relative ease of creation can gradually place blinders on our creative thinking. We can reach a point when we only look at other photographs for inspiration. That kind of thinking limits our scope as artists. This mindset is especially dangerous for new photographers and can lead to frustration, disappointment and even worse, emulation that festers into plagiarism.
Don’t let yourself have artistic tunnel vision. Begin to look for inspiration everywhere to fuel your photography. Black and white sketches, paintings, wood carvings, architecture, kids finger-painting – everything has the potential to give you a smack of creativity that you can mould into photographic inspiration. The truth is that you really never know what will inspire you.
(Article written by Adam Welch)
Other articles by Adam Welch
The Importance of Diversification as a Photographer
The Minimalist Landscape Photographer: What do you really need.
Worth a Thousand Words: The story of a Photograph
Study the Masters of Photography to Become a Better Photographer
20 March Presentation: Personal Projects and how to develop a creative style
Presenter: Hamish Ta-mé
Image Evaluation: Open
Judge: Phillip Ramsden
Field Trip: Lithgow Iron Festival
Image Evaluation: Architecture
Judge: John Swainston
Presentation: A Few of the Legends
Presenter: Peter Adams
Field Trip: Sydney street day with Hamish Ta-mé
Image Evaluation: Shadows
Judge: IIona Abou-Zolof
Field Trip: Wollongong Grevilla Park
Annual General Meeting
For Complete 2018 Program Details Click Here
SHPS AWARD SUMMARY-FEBRUARY 2018
PHIL BELBIN 'PUDDLES' CREDIT
GIANNI BIASI 'MODEL 01' DISTINCTION
ALAN EDWARDS 'GOT IT' DISTINCTION
ALAN EDWARDS 'GOT IM' CREDIT
ALAN EDWARDS 'OFF TO WORK' CREDIT
IAN FEGENT 'NEWNES COKE OVENS' CREDIT
SYLVIA JEFFREY 'ICELAND' CREDIT
SYLVIA JEFFREY 'ICE BEACH ICELAND DISTINCTION
HELEN LEESON 'RED HOT POKER' DISTINCTION
NADINE LINDSAY 'SMOOTH PUDDLE' CREDIT
NADINE LINDSAY 'SMOKING AREA' DISTINCTION
MIKE NOLAN 'RUSTIC' CREDIT
MIKE NOLAN 'SYDNEY IN THE RAIN CREDIT
MARK PASSFIELD 'BERLIN' CREDIT
JOHN ROBERTS 'SPOTTED PARDALOTE' DISTINCTION
JOHN ROBERTS 'TARALGA II' CREDIT
SUE ROBERTSON 'MATARANKA' DISTINCTION
CHRIS STIMSON 'SAYING GOODBYE' CREDIT
CHRIS STIMSON 'BROLLIES' CREDIT
GARY WHITE 'PAPUA KING PARROT' CREDIT
PHIL BELBIN 'ART CRITIC' DISTINCTION
GIANNI BIASI 'GHOST IN THE VEIL' DISTINCTION
BOB GREEN 'PLAYING THE BLUES' DISTINCTION
BOB GREEN 'CATTLE WRESTLING' DISTINCTION
IAN FEGENT ''PUBLIC HOLIDAY IN SEOUL' CREDIT
CHRIS STIMSON 'SECRETS' DISTINCTION
MARK PASSFILED 'BULL'S EYE' CREDIT
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GARY WHITE 'CHEETAH VIGIL' CREDIT
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BARBARA SEAGER 'IN A HURRY' CREDIT
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CHARLES FOREMAN 'RUNNING LATE' CREDIT
CHARLES FOREMAN 'OUT OF COMMISSION' CREDIT
DAWN IZURIETA 'FEAR & CONFUSION' CREDIT
JACQUI DAVEY 'SUNWAPT FALLS' DISTINCTION
JACQUI DAVEY 'ON THE WAY UP' CREDIT
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JOHN HALPIN 'LUNCH' DISTINCTION
JOHN HALPIN 'FLYING' CREDIT
JOHN HALPIN 'BELL BIRD' DISTINCTION
JOHN KNIGHT 'AFTERNOON STROLL' DISTINCTION
MARTIN FLAXMAN 'REFLECTION' DISTINCTION
MARTIN FLAXMAN 'KALALOCK SUNSET' CREDIT
MARTIN FLAXMAN 'SAFE HARBOUR' DISTINCTION
PAT HALPIN 'LASSOED' CREDIT
ROBERT LESO 'WATCHING OVER YOU' DISTINCTION
ROBERT LESO 'CONCRETE JUNGLE' CREDIT
SUE ROBERTSON 'MEMORIES' DISTINCTION
TORU MORI 'MAROUBRA' CREDIT
TORU MORI 'KYTO TEMPLE' CREDIT
Dragging the shutter is a technique that balances the exposure of flash and ambient light sources in the same photo. Taking a photo of someone outside at night using flash while also capturing the city lights in the background is a good example.
Nailing this technique requires practice and persistence, but eventually balancing the brightness of your foreground and background will become second nature. In this Technique blog post, Bobbi Lane explains how it is done and even explains how you can compensate for differences in color temperature too!
Flashes can put out a powerful amount of light. In order to balance this with any ambient light we need to use a long shutter speed – hence the term ‘dragging the shutter’. There is quite a lot to know about this technique because it involves color balance as well as exposure balance.
Thankfully, FUJIFILM X Series cameras have a flash mode called ‘slow sync’ that (in conjunction with a FUJIFILM-dedicated flash set to TTL) automatically sets the proper shutter speed to achieve this look. But, with a little bit of practice using manual exposure settings, you can grain total control of your lighting.
The photo used here to illustrate the dragging technique is of my husband, Lee Varis, in a gallery. The ambient light on him was not ideal, so I used flash to illuminate him, but the spotlights on the photos were interesting and dramatic. To include them too, I’d need to light Lee with flash and capture the background using the ambient light.
The key to knowing how this technique works is an understanding of how flashes work in the first place. Since most flashes put out a good amount of power in a very short time, our exposure technique is different from shooting with ambient alone. Flash duration can be 1/1000 sec or shorter, so different shutter speeds will not change the amount of flash light let into the camera. We control flash exposure only with the aperture.
Secondly, it’s important to know your camera’s sync speed – the fastest shutter speed you can use for flash photography. Any shorter than this and you will see a dark band across the frame caused by your camera’s shutter beginning to close before the flash has properly fired. On my FUJIFILM X-T2, this is 1/250.
Step 1: Measuring Ambient Light
Firstly, we need to determine the ambient light exposure. With the flash turned off, take a manual exposure meter reading with your camera. Do this by selecting an F stop, then turning the shutter speed dial until the meter reading is ±0. Here’s what the scene looked like with just ambient light.
This is what things look like with just gallery’s ambient lights.
Exposure: 1/20 sec at F5.6 and ISO 200.
There are two problems with this image: first, the electric lights in the background are pretty orange in color; second, the subject is virtually a silhouette. We can fix both of these problems by applying some flash.
Step 2: Correct Flash Exposure
Getting the right flash brightness is as simple as setting the same F stop that you used for the ambient light image, then switching the flash mode to TTL. Now, when you shoot the camera and flash will put out exactly the right amount of light to achieve the proper brightness for that aperture.
Take a picture now, with the shutter speed at the 1/250 sec sync speed setting, and you’ll see a properly exposed foreground and virtually dark black background. Like this.
This is what things look like with just flash illumination. Exposure: 1/250 sec at F5.6 and ISO 200.
By comparing these two photos (Step 1 and Step 2) you can see that different parts of the scene are being illuminated by the two different light sources. The flash is only lighting the subject, not the background. And the background lights are not hitting the front of the subject either. There’s no lighting crossover between flash and ambient – if there was, we’d have to take this into account to avoid overexposing the foreground subject.
Step 3: Combining Flash and Daylight
The next step is combining the two sources. Repeat the shot you took in Step 2, except now set the shutter speed to the value that you determined when measuring the ambient exposure – 1/20 sec in this case. Now we get this image.
Flash and ambient light exposures at the same time. Exposure: 1/20 sec at F5.6 and ISO 200.
Okay! Now we’re making progress. However, we still have the color problem to solve. Flash light is the same color as daylight (bluish), while the light from the spotlights is orange. When faced with two or more different colored light sources, we need to bring their color temperatures together in order to get a natural result.
Step 4: Bringing the Colors Together
In this instance, we can either: put a blue gel, called a CTB (color temperature blue), on all the spotlights in the background; or put an orange gel, called a CTO (color temperature orange), on the strobe light, warming it up a little.
Guess which option is easier? Correct – the CTO gel on the flash!
A couple of things to note, though. The colored gel blocks light, so you need to increase the power of the flash by about one stop if you’re using a flash set to manual. If you’re on TTL, the flash will do this automatically, and you don’t really need to think about it.
Last step: change the white balance setting on the camera to tungsten (the light bulb) and everything should look good!
Brightness and color are matched. Exposure: 1/20 sec at F5.6 and ISO 200, with CTO gel on the flash and tungsten WB set on camera.
CLICK HERE TO READ THE CONCLUSION
How Bobbi Lane Balances Flash and Ambient Light When Shooting Portraits
Travel of the Month: THAILAND
CREATIVE AND TECHNICAL DECISIONS
Minimalism is a nuanced animal: if you really nail it, the clarity and sheer power of your expression is palpable, whereas if you miss your mark, the photo looks empty and devoid of meaning. The tough part is that the line between these two is razor thin. This helpful video will discuss what makes a successful minimalistic landscape photograph.
No matter what we do in photography - or any creative endeavor - we have to learn to make choices. That takes some basic knowledge of our craft, visual literacy, and most importantly the courage to make a choice and risk being wrong. On one hand this one's about how I choose my lenses and apertures, on the other hand it's about something so much bigger.
USING THE PEN TOOL IN PHOTOSHOP
HOW TO CREATE MYSTERY AND TELL A STORY WITH MINIMALISM IN LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY
Let’s face it…growing up isn’t always easy. There are lots of hurdles to overcome during our journeys as photographers. At one time or another, we all hit rough spots with some aspect of photography. Take heart though, whether it’s a problem with technique, gear, or simply finding your own creative uniqueness, I can personally guarantee that someone else is struggling with that same problem.
But there’s one situation too often encountered by beginners and even pro photographers alike – the dreaded “plateau”. This is a stage that often happens when we feel like our photography has a reached a point where it is no longer improving. It’s a terrible feeling.
USING THE BLEND IF SLIDERS
THREE TIPS FOR OVERCOMING A PHOTOGRAPHIC PLATEAU-ADAM WELCH
20 lightroom tips: speedy photo fixes
HOW THE BLACK AND WHITE FILTER CAN MAKE YOUR COLORS POP
Some days, the light just doesn't cooperate to give you that beautiful blue sky in the background of an image. But your subject may be so compelling, you know you have to fix that sky to make elevate your image from mundane to impressive. You could always replace the sky in Photoshop, but there may just be an even easier way to do it using the Black and White Filter.
Lowe Pro bag to suit mirror less or relatively small cameras and lenses. To section opens separately for jackets/clothing/even lunch!
$30 CONTACT: Alan Edwards 4861 7222
Congratulations to all February award winners. Your image making is inspiring to all of us.
This year in lieu of featuring a member each month we will be featuring some of the Masters of Photography with the lessons that we can learn from them in order to better our photography. However should any member wish to be featured that has thus far not being featured by all means please let me know and I will happily oblige.
Also in the event any of you have equipment you would like to sell please let me know and I will include in the newsletter.
As always all suggestions for improvement on this newsletter are very welcome. Please email me at:
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Five Books That Changed My Life as a Professional Photographer
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