Thursday, April 28, 2011

Light and shadows, 118/365

So, I'm going to try to make a philosophical point about photography today.  But, please, keep reading.  Don't let the word "philosophical" cause you to just go back to Facebook yet.  One of my biggest pet peeves in photography today is what I like to call the machine-gun approach.  When you see something you want a picture of, you just start snapping away, because, digital photos are free.  Right?  You can just delete the bad ones.  *sigh*  This practice makes teaching photography more challenging now, because people aren't motivated to stop and think about their images as much as they did back in the film days.  If you are limited to a 24 exposure roll of film, you are going to make sure that you really want to take a picture before using that frame of film that you bought and have to pay to have processed.  Don't get me wrong, the digital age has brought many wonderful benefits to photography as well, immediate results being the biggest one.  But, the general public has lost something in the process.

Imagine back in Ansel Adam's days, shooting with a large format camera.  It uses expensive sheet film, which can only be carried with you in small quantities on a photo shoot.  And his photo shoots were not walking around the neighborhood looking for cool shots.  They were Yosemite, the glaciers in Alaska, the desert.  Do you think he spent a long time fine-tuning his shots to make sure everything was perfect?  You better believe he did!  Even I don't have the patience to use it much anymore, but I do have a large format camera that uses sheet film.  I've only taken a handful of pictures with it.  Mainly, because I average about 45 minutes per picture just to take a shot with it. 

So, why do I bring this point up?  Well, I usually shoot several photos and then pick my favorite.  Today, I did a slight twist on the photo-a-day project.  I only took one photo.  That's right, this image is the only frame I shot today.  No deleting the bad ones or picking from the group, just one shot.  I liked the way the light was going through the glass walls, as well as how some was reflected back to make a cross pattern on the floor.  I picked the best spot and angle for the shot (not that it's perfect), and watched... and waited...  First, I waited until the pedestrians were out of the way, except for the lone person through the doorway.  I decided I wanted to use someone (unrecognizable) in that spot.  Then, I waited for the light.  When the people first got out of my shot, it clouded over a little bit, and I didn't like the light reflections as well.  Finally, the sun hit the glass nicely, I got someone walking through the doorway, and snapped one picture.  And then put the camera away.  Granted, there is plenty that I still don't like about this photo.  I couldn't wait for the truck parked along the street to move, and there is a pickup that is very distracting too.  But, for the scene I was given, this is what I was able to do with it.

The point is, people who do machine-gun photography occasionally get good shots, because of luck.  Careful, observant, patient photographers will get more good shots, deliberately.  I don't claim any of my shots to be great, but they are usually thought out and as I had envisioned them.  So, next time you are out shooting, try being more deliberate, and see what it does for your photography.

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