Saturday, June 14, 2014

5 Lessons From A Photograph - Part 2

Metal Bird Abstract - Tehachapi, California
About two-and-a-half weeks ago I published a post called 5 Lessons From A Photograph. One photograph had much insight to give. "I believe your lessons are totally true," Dan Loerch told me.

Metal Bird Abstract at the top of this post also has five lessons to give. These five lessons are different than the lessons in that previous post. Each image that we capture is a learning experience. I believe this is why Henri Cartier-Bresson said, "Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst." There is certainly a lot to be learned when you are starting out.

Lesson #1 - Equipment Doesn't Matter

I used my cell phone, a Nokia Lumia 1020, to capture Metal Bird Abstract. Yes, really, my cell phone. Why? Because that's the camera I had with me.

It doesn't make any difference what camera you own. Any camera is capable in the hands of a skilled photographer. A "better" camera or lens will never make you a better photographer.

A great pianist can play a masterpiece on any piano. A great painter can create a masterpiece on any canvas. A great sculptor can chisel a masterpiece from any rock. The opposite of that is true, too. No matter how great the piano is, if you aren't any good you'll never play a masterpiece. No matter how high-quality the canvas may be, if you aren't a good painter you'll never create a masterpiece. Even if you have marble, if you are not good with a chisel you'll never carve a masterpiece.

The outcome of a photograph depends on the photographer, not the camera in his or her hand. Ansel Adams said, "The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it."

Lesson #2 - Time of Day Doesn't Matter

I've said that if you want to improve your photography really quick, then be sure to photograph near sunrise and sunset. The light is often magical, and great photographs require great light.

But I've also said that great light can be found anytime of the day or night if you look hard enough for it. Metal Bird Abstract was captured in the mid-day sun. In fact, this photograph would be less strong if I'd captured it around sunrise or sunset.

The lesson here is don't put your camera away just because of the time of day. Just because the sun is high doesn't mean that great light doesn't exist, it just means you need to look even harder to find it.

Lesson #3 - Location Doesn't Matter

I've talked about location a lot lately on the Roesch Photography Blog. Two very recent posts are Find Photographic Inspiration In Your Own Yard and Photograph Your Neighborhood. I captured Metal Bird Abstract at the Indian Point Ostrich Ranch, which isn't all that far from my house. The photograph is of a metal ostrich.

The lesson here is quick and simple: you don't have to go far to photograph. Near you home, in your neighborhood, in your local area, there are thousands and thousands and thousands of photographic opportunities. You must actively look for them and capture them when they're found.

Lesson #4 - Contrast Does Matter

What makes Metal Bird Abstract work is light contrast. It is the illuminated "feathers" juxtaposed against the shadowed "feathers" that make it interesting. That contrast and the repeated shapes are what the photograph is about.

Contrast is such an important part of photography, yet it is not often used effectively. But the principal is simple: where light and dark meet is where the eyes will go first.

If the main subject is high in contrast, the viewer will be attracted to it. If some other part of the photograph is high in contrast (something in the background or along the edge of the frame perhaps) the viewer will be attracted to it. Use contrast to make the viewer go where you want them to in your images, and be careful not to take them where you don't want them to go.

Lesson #5 - Vision Does Matter

It takes photographic vision to make great photographs. I define photographic vision as a vivid and imaginative conception. It is creating the photograph in your mind prior to capture it with your camera.

I had to see in my brain Metal Bird Abstract before I could attempt to create it. When I pointed the lens at the rusty bird I already knew what the final image would look like.

The more creative I am prior to capturing a photograph, the better the photograph is that I create. Photography is about the photographer just as much (if not more so) than what is in front of the photographer.

Thoughtless snaps are rarely anything special because the photographer did not place himself or herself into the image somehow. The more you can edit an image prior to opening the shutter the stronger the image will be.

Part 3

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