Fantastic example of macro photography Ian. Superb!!
Monthly Archives: November 2009
Dangerous stuff Erik!! Leaf’s-eye view!!
As much as we might enjoy photography and happily endure the hassle of hauling a camera around, there are of course times where we don’t have a camera with us. Maybe we forgot to take it, or perhaps it isn’t convenient or practical to have it with us on the occasion.
But does photography then stop for us? Are we only photographers when we are physically in possession of a camera? Perhaps so for some, but I recommend keeping those photographers eyes open all the time.
What do I mean? What are some things we can keep an eye out for? Well, let’s briefly touch on a few areas that contribute to a good photo — shapes, lines, color, contrast and light.
Practice seeing regular shapes and how they compliment each other or create interesting interactions. Squares and circles together such as a solitary ball on a tiled floor. Groups of triangles could be another — the structure of a construction crane is filled with triangles. Related to shapes are lines, and strong lines can be an effective way to create interest in your photos. Keep a look-out for diagonals, curves and especially the elusive and treasured “S” line such as you might see in a winding path or a country road.
When you are out and about without that camera also keep colors in mind. Look for pleasing plays such as a yellow building against a blue sky, or any vibrant color in a relatively dull environment.
Closely aligned to color is contrast. Contrast is especially relevant to black and white photography. Watch for sharp delineations between bright areas and dark. In your mind, try switching to black and white mode in the middle of the day when the light is often too harsh for color capture but creates sharp shadows.
This brings us to light. Be observant of the light at different times of the day. On days without too much cloud cover, you will notice how the quality of light changes over the course of the daylight period. This can have a dramatic effect on color. Colors are warm and rich at the beginning and the end of the day, but bright and harsh during the midday period. Make a mental note of these effects for future reference.
Bringing two or more of these elements together is what the broader subject of composition is all about, but the point here is don’t close your eyes to photography just because you don’t have a camera handy. Look for these things and mentally note them — even if it might not be really worthy of a good photo, it’s the seeing that is important. Just as you don’t need specialized exercise equipment to keep your body in shape, you don’t need to be in possession of a camera to keep a practiced eye.
Have a look at what the some of the best expat photographers in Korea are seeing and check out the Seoul Photo Club on Flickr.
About a month or so ago, I decided to try something new to me in photography: medium format film. This week I’d like to discuss what medium format is, and the effect that the switch back to film after a long time shooting digital has had on my photography.
Medium format is a larger film than the ubiquitous 35mm we’re all familiar with. It comes in various flavors (eg. 645 and 6×7 among others), but they all share one side of 6cm in length and use the same “120″ size film. Medium format has been around since the beginning of last century and has been first choice for many areas of professional photography where the very best quality prints are essential.
These days though, affordable high-resolution digital cameras have all but supplanted medium format in the more dynamic kinds of professional capture such as at weddings, where digitals adaptability and flexibility give it a distinct advantage. However, medium format film is still very popular in areas of pro photography where you have time and/or control over the conditions such as shooting landscape or in the studio, and also with those to whom photography is art to be viewed in a gallery.
But more important than what medium format actually is, is the effect the switch to film has had as to how I personally practice my photography.
On the down-side, the camera shares the issue typical with most film cameras – once the film is in you can’t change it. In addition, it’s big, heavy and doesn’t exactly get out of the way of your photography. The camera I use is totally manual – I have to set the aperture, shutter speed and focus manually – meaning off-the-cuff opportunistic shots are almost totally out of the question. Also a roll of film is about three times more expensive than 35mm and only yields 10 frames.
There is a flip-side to this. Once the shutter fires, I can’t take it back, I can’t immediately see what I’ve got, and there is a definite price tag on each shot. This is the flip-side? It is. As it turns out, this has been of real benefit to my photography. It has forced me to think about each shot much more carefully than when shooting digital.
With a DSLR you are free to take multiple pictures – different compositions, choices of aperture and exposure, etc. – but with medium format I have to consider every single shot in much more detail. I’m not free to just fire away carte-blanche, choose the best and delete the rest. I typically get one chance only to get the best photograph and I try to make quite sure I’m going to get it. Sure, I’m not as productive, but my percentage of keepers has increased two-fold over what I was getting with my DSLR.
This isn’t a film vs. digital issue, it’s all about attitude and approach. Shooting film, especially a more expensive format like medium format, forces close attention on technique – your choice of aperture, focal point and especially composition. I highly recommend grabbing a film camera once in a while as a wake-up call.
Nice repetition there Brad. Pity they cropped it…
On Saturday evening I had dinner with several friends that included a couple of fellow Seoul Photo Club members. These guys were photographers with much more experience than I, with time spent behind cameras all over Asia and the sub-continent. The conversation turned to (surprise) photography in Korea. One of the topics we discussed was how difficult it is to capture Korea meaningfully in a photographic sense.
It was difficult to put a finger exactly on why this is. After all, we all have Korea with plenty of temple shots, palaces and traditional markets. But as good as they might be, these photos often aren’t much different from what any tourist with a camera might capture.
The consensus seemed to be that vacation-style snaps will be all you produce until you actually develop some kind of relationship with this country.
This relationship could take many different forms, but let me give you a couple of examples to illustrate what I mean.
I was talking to another member of the SPC from Busan last week. He spends a bit of time in his local traditional market being perfectly visible with his camera, even if he’s not actively taking pictures. Over time he’s become part of the furniture and is able to take photos comfortably with the willing consent of the locals – capturing them naturally and getting images not normally available to the furtive outsider.
He had developed a relationship over time with a group of people.
I’ve had numerous experiences like this myself and I can relate a very recent example. I take my film to a lab in Chungmuro in central Seoul for developing, and while waiting the hour or so to pick up the negatives, I enjoy a beverage at a nearby convenience store (as one does). Directly opposite where I relax in a blue plastic chair is a very small men’s clothing store. Because I am there once or twice a week, camera prominent on the blue plastic table, the 74-year-old proprietor of that shop knows what I’m about. Recently he asked me to take his picture standing in front of the suit-festooned facade of his little shop and we shared a drink after.
These situations are photographic gold and are next to impossible to get if you are just breezing by or attempting to operate in stealth mode.
These two examples reinforce what we discussed over dinner – acquiring a benign profile or developing some kind of relationship with people or a particular area, camera prominent, will present opportunities that when captured will powerfully and meaningfully reflect the time you have spent in this country. In addition, the character and atmosphere of your photographs will set them apart from the usual vacation fare.
Also, keep that camera visible. Often just the act of extracting a camera out of a bag will send a signal for people to be on their guard – a visible camera tempers this natural reaction in many people.
Visit the Seoul Photo Club on Flickr and experience the many different relationships photographers from all around Korea have with this country.