A friend and I have been talking a bit about photography lately and, as you may have noticed, I’ve also of late been going through my old photo disks looking for images that might be worth Photoshopping and posting. The two came together last week when I happened to mention that I was looking through four rolls I’d shot in Stillwater about five years ago and she said she’d like to see them. Since she’s an artist who’s interested in expanding her photographic skills, I decided to let her see the whole series rather than just the “good” ones so she could get a feel for how I work—in case that might give her some ideas about her approach. To go along with the images, I wrote a quick squib talking about what I think I’m doing when I wander around looking for and taking photos.
Then I remembered that I mentioned wanting to share my thoughts about photography with y’all here on LJ. So here’s that squib:
It’s fairly rare for me to take just one photo of something and then move on. I usually “chew” on a subject, taking a number of photos of it. In general, I take the first shot fairly quickly, trying to grab whatever it was about the subject that attracted my eye; then I will work with it to see if there isn’t a better way of expressing or showing it and to see if perhaps there’s something more interesting about the subject than what I first noticed. Looking at the results over the years, there have been pay-offs for both aspects of that approach: sometimes it is that very first shot that works, other times that one turns out to be pedestrian while a later one sings. Of course, there are times when none of them are any good, but the art of photography lies as much in the process of culling for display as it does in the taking of the photos.
Within the “chewing” process itself I have a number of different approaches, not all of which I will exercise on one particular subject, but all of which I have used at various times over the years. There are no doubt some I’m not consciously aware of, and some I won’t recall at the moment, but some of these approaches are: changing the framing slightly, including or excluding background; changing the point of focus; moving the camera a bit to the left, right, up, down, backwards, or forwards in order to change the angle from which the object is seen or to change what it reveals or hides in the background (or how much of it is revealed or hidden by things in the foreground); moving around within a larger area while still considering the initial subject; changing to a lens with a different angle of view for much the same reasons as above; and various combinations of the above. (And sometimes I will get two nearly identical images in a row of the same thing becuase I held the shutter button down a bit to long. Heh.) Eventually I will decide I’ve exhausted the subject’s interesting possibilities or that I don’t see any more at the moment and will move on. Sometimes I will come back to a particular subject/place after looking at something else if I think a fresh look might be worthwhile or if I get a new idea about how to approach it. Come to think of it, sometimes other photos in the same area which include a previous subject will be informed by knowledge gained while chewing on that previous subject without necessarily being “about” it.
I also keep in mind whether I have colour or black & white film in the camera and, in fact, try to choose film type based on what I’m looking for or the nature of what I think I’m seeing/finding at the time. Black & white is a much more graphic medium, being primarily about shapes and textures, whereas colour is about color first and foremost (although it can be moved toward being more graphic by, for example, choosing to work a limited palette).