How To Shoot?

On Being . . .
On Being . . .

I recently wrote about Jay Maisel’s book Light,Gesture, & Color in which he writes

All year long I walk around shooting as minimally as I can.  One camera, a zoom lens, and that’s it.

I’m now reading On Being a Photographer.  David Hurn advises photographers to

. . . take on a project that is containable, and can be completed in a reasonable period of time. . . . just wandering around looking for pictures, hoping that something will pop up and announce itself, does not work.

I  think both approaches can work and have worked for me.  It’s true that having some sort of focus, whether it’s a project or a weekly challenge published on the internet, will improve one’s photography.  I have fun just rambling about with camera ready.  Sometimes things do pop up.  I went on a road trip yesterday to work on my project to photograph the St. Croix River from source to mouth.  I also kept my eyes open for pop-up opportunities.  Of the three best photos from yesterday, one was of the St. Croix, the other two were things I spotted while driving on back roads in Wisconsin.  Here are the three:

 

 

Light, Gesture, and Color

Light, Gesture, & Color
Light, Gesture, & Color

I like this book.  I like the way Jay Maisel thinks, probably because I think many of the same things.  I do the same thing as he writes about:

All year long I walk around shooting as minimally as I can.  One camera, a zoom lens, and that’s it.

One night a year [Halloween] I add an on-line flash.

I do this with great trepidation, as I really don’t know how to use the damn thing.

I try to sneak out of the house before my wife can see me and howl, “Oh my God, you have no idea what you’re doing.”

It’s a top-of-the-line Nikon flash.  It has too many numbers and letters.  It doesn’t just intimidate me, it eludes me completely.

I have never used the flash that came with my Olympus OMD.

The book contains a short introduction of seven pages.  The rest of the book contains two-page spreads with a photo on one page and a short, pithy description on the other page.  As you can see by the quote above, a number of the spreads have Maisel’s self-deprecating humor, as in the following:

I love to photography my daughter asleep.  There is none of the clenched look that some people have when asleep.  She looks angelic and peaceful.  That’s what I’m trying to get.

Never mind that when she awakens and sees me, she starts bellowing out, “Do you have any idea how creepy it is to wake up and find you’re being photographed?”

“Yes, dear.  Now relax and go back to sleep.”

Other spreads have Maisel’s advice.

You have to be ready to shoot at all times.

Don’t over think things in front of you.  If it moves you, shoot it.  If it’s fun, shoot it.  If you’ve never seen it before, shoot it.

. . . There was no sun.  There was just a pissed off, disappointed photographer who had been thwarted in his attempt.

Petulant, unhappy, and frustrated, I started throwing all my tripods, cameras, and miscellaneous crap into the car.

I was there with my ex-wife, who looked at the spectacle I was making of myself and simply said, “Turn around, stupid.”  I looked and was amazed to see that the sky had turned blood red and the building were reflecting the red afterglow.

Had I not been told to look, I would have quit, ignorant of what was really there, because I had “made plans” and was wearing visual and emotional blinders that limited my perceptions and my vision.

It’s important to realize that the images are everywhere, not just where you want or expect them to be.

You can’t just turn on when something happens, you have to be turned on all the time.  Then things happen.

There are no rules.

The thing I’m aiming at is to remind you that the more generic your image is, the less surprising, challenging, or specific it will be.

Try not for the symbol, the familiar, the iconic.  Try, instead, to make your pictures a new look, a very personal, insightful type of gesture you’ve not seen in pictures again and again over the years.

So we all miss most of the best shots.  Don’t despair, keep working on it.  You are not alone.

Light can be instantaneous.  You must be ready, and you must have the damn camera with you.

I ordered Light, Gesture, and Color on-line.  When I first looked at it I was disappointed because there was so little text.  I tend to like dense books with a lot of content.  This book was exactly the opposite.  There is not much content, but the content is concise, witty, and useful.  There is very little about the technical aspects of photography.  The book will not tell you how to operate your camera.  It will tell you how to see better.  Isn’t that what we are all ultimately striving for?

A Day At the Florists

Hanging Pitcher Plants
Hanging Pitcher Plants

I spent some time at Rose Floral in Stillwater today.  Rose Floral has a huge greenhouse filled with plants and flowers.  A greenhouse is an excellent place for photography.  Good, even, natural light and lots of wonderful subjects.  Here are some of my photos from today.

 

January 13 Photo Of the Day

January 13 Photo Of the Day

I have my apartment cleaned once a month – I’m much too lazy to do it myself.  When the people from Maid Pro are cleaning I leave and am away for a few hours.  On this day I cashed in a Christmas gift card at Barnes and Noble.  Then I somehow found myself in the middle of the afternoon at Pub 112 in Stillwater.  A nice place.  I had to go somewhere – much to cold to stay outside.  So here is my photo of the days for January 13 featuring my new book and Sierra Nevade ale.

The Way To Study - At Pub 12

Photo Of the Day – January 07

The white cyclamen is my photo of the day.  I photographed the same flower a few days ago.  That photo was in diffused, artificial light.  The photo in this post was back lit by natural light coming in a north-facing window.  I like the natural lighting better.

This week I have been photographing white and pink cyclamens and a red poinsettia.  Did you know that you can get a large poinsettia for $2.00 if you wait till after Christmas.  And a potted cyclamen for $1.50?  Good, cheap photo subjects when you don’t want to venture out into the artic weather.

White Cyclamen II
White Cyclamen II
Pink Cyclamen
Pink Cyclamen

Unforgettable

The Unforgettable Photograph: How to Take Great Pictures of the People and Things You LoveA book with many photographs and suggestions for how to find good photo opportunities.  Most of the photos are people photos, but Lange has ideas that will be of value for any type of photographer.  Here are some of his words:

Never stop looking until your eyes close at night.

Shoot the predictable shot and then keep photographing, always watching for something you don’t expect.

Loosen up.  Find your groove.  Then shoot it.

There are all these absurd rules . . .  So break them – good pictures happen that way.

I followed my son into a dark barn on a farm.  I set up this shot and waited.  After a quick ride around he headed for the door, and I was ready.  (Was there any chance that a little boy on a scooter wouldn’t head out an open door?  I don’t think so.)

Don’t be stingy about pressing the shutter button, either because you think you already have the picture, or because you are too busy checking what you have.  Only when you keep shooting can you find the wave and take it for a ride.