Tag Archives: Approach

Ansel Adams – a photography legend

A documentary about Ansel Adams.

• Ansel Adams – a documentary •
[Image from the video]

Images that expressed the majesty in nature.

Ansel Adams became a legend in his own lifetime. He saw something special in landscapes. That “something” bought alive the majesty we feel when we are awed by natural landscapes. Yet he was much more than a photographer. He was a musician, thinker, energetic conservationist AND an extraordinary photographer.

Special talents defined Ansel Adams

From early in life Ansel Adams was fascinated by music. He taught himself to play the piano. His father saw an extraordinary talent emerging. He took him out of school to concentrate on his music skills. He was home educated using some of the best instructors and teachers available. His musical skill developed and he exhibited great talent. Then in 1916, he encountered a book which excited an interest in the big landscapes that became his life’s work. His father took him to Yosemite with the rest of the family. He later said of the this experience…

“…the splendour of Yosemite burst upon us and it was glorious… One wonder after another descended upon us… There was light everywhere… A new era began for me.”
Ansel Adams

During the first visit to Yosemite Ansel Adams was given a Kodak “Box Brownie” camera. From that moment his approach to the extraordinary landscapes that he loved so much was changed. He became transfixed by his photography. However, his love of music came first. For a number of years during his 20’s he pursued a career as a concert pianist.

Ansel Adams met the woman who later became his wife in a small studio where he was practising his piano while on his summer sojourn in the Sierra Mountains. The affair was on-and-off for a number of years. Ansel Adams struggled to reconcile the two passions of his life – music and the great landscapes of the Sierra Mountains.

In the summer of 1923 Ansel Adams, then 21, had, what he later described as, a “transcendental experience” while out in the mountains. He struggled for another seven years with his artistic inclinations and his ambition to become a musician. But finally the mountains drew him back and he had grown tired of the the petty politics of the life of a musician. From that time on he dedicated his life to trying to capture the wonder and sharp detail of his earlier transcendental experience.

Ansel Adams: A Documentary Film 2002

The most striking thing about this video is the way that Ansel Adams life is so carefully depicted as both an interesting story but also as a study in his philosophy as a photographer. He was filled with art, music and photography. Together they were a way for him to express his understanding of the power and awe to be found in nature. The video shows not only his personal philosophy but also some of the ideas and techniques that together made his photography so graphic, expressive and passionate.
Uploaded by: THE RAD PHO

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Get down to eye level with animals

Work at the eye level of the animal - get into their world

Work at the eye level of the animal – get into their world.

The world at eye level…

Photography can be wonderful because of the alternative views we can get. Often the best photographs are the ones that show us new views, or ones we don’t see from our normal standing position. The world of animals is a particular case in point. Use the eyes as a guide. Work at eye level.

Photographing animals

There is a whole range of animals involved in our lives. Domestic animals and others make great photo-subjects and there is a huge number of different ways to photograph them. Inexperienced photogs often make the mistake of taking the shot from the normal upright standing position. This does two things. It renders the subject “normal” in the eyes of the viewer – because this is the angle they see it normally. This upright position also tends to make the animal seem small and subservient. Both these viewpoints can make your shot look mundane or worse, flat. It will probably be uninteresting to the viewer.

Get down to the eye level of the animal. All of a sudden you are in the animals own world. By engaging directly with the animal at its eye level you create a correspondence with it. Eye-to-eye communication is an excellent way to get to the story of the animal. You see it at its own height. You can also see its world the way the animal does.

The point about this is that you are telling the viewer a new story. It is one they normally stand above. The viewer will have a much better insight from the animal you have pictured. More to the point you will be developing the eye level contact between the pictured animal and the viewer themselves. That contact brings the viewer into the picture. Eye to eye pictures are very powerful.

Eye level contact

Getting eye level contact with an animal is very powerful. The line of sight view the animal has, and the impact of the stare, can all be used to good advantage. If your animal has particularly amazing eyes you are also going to gain from the directness of the shot.

Eye level contact with animals and birds is a very powerful way to draw viewers into your picture.

Eye level contact with animals and birds is a very powerful way to draw viewers into your picture.
(Click image to view large)


Of course you can do the same for animals, in many situations. I enjoy doing photography in zoos. When you try to picture animals there, try to get them at eye level too. To do that you may need to get up a little higher. For example monkeys may be above your head height. I have often found a light ladder or folding step useful when photographing this way. It gets you up to their level.

Getting down low is important too. So be ready to lie down or at least bend for some shots. Try to get your shot right into the eyes of the animal subject you are imaging.

Bring the eyes alive

Eyes tend to look dead if they don’t reflect light. So when possible arrange the light or take the shot to see these reflections. They are called catchlights. If the eyes look alive the dynamic feel of the catchlights will add to the drama of the shot. Catchlights are more easily captured at eye level. So taking a picture on a direct line of sight will help to capture the feel of a penetrating eye.

Eye to eye level

All living subjects have eyes. You will always find that they are most important in the power of your shot. If you get your shot with an eye to eye level correspondence you will connect with that power. Animal or human subject, that power will be there. Your photography will benefit from emphasising it when ever you can.

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Picture titles prompt your viewer

Picture titles - Quiet contemplation

• Quiet contemplation •

It’s all about communication.

It’s a great feeling when your point is understood. This is true with pictures too. When we show people our picture we want them to understand what it is about.

Sadly, pictures are often shown out of context. Then the meaning can be misinterpreted. For example, social networks and art sites show pictures. When posted with lots of other pictures the viewer sometimes needs some idea of the picture’s meaning. That is where picture titles come into their own.

Picture titles give context

A pro-photog tries to make sure their images have a point. They work to make their point from the moment they approach a scene. The final image is the result of a composition that pulls the essential elements together. It crystallises the point for the viewer.

In completing the composition the photog has a clear idea of what he wanted to achieve. It is that ‘idea’ that can be used to make picture titles. For the viewer it is the idea they need to explain the point of a picture when it is out of context on a gallery wall or where-ever.

How do you use picture titles?

The most important thing about a picture tile is brevity. To be effective you need to say it all in a few words. If the viewer has to read a long text about the point of a picture the meaning will be lost. A picture is worth a thousand words. It should express the point. The title is a sign post, a clue.

Your title will achieve two things. It will express the point of the picture. It will also give the viewer an insight into how your thinking went while making the image.

Think carefully. Leave out your brief clue to the meaning of the picture and you may leave the viewer clueless. I am sure you would not want them to miss the point of your lovely picture. Would you?

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Backgrounds – simple is best

Creating Perfect Backgrounds

• Creating Perfect Backgrounds •
Bryan Peterson looks at one of the simplest lessons in outdoor photography – but one that gets effective results.
[Image taken from the video]

Perfect backgrounds…

It’s easy to spoil a great subject by picking the wrong background or using one with distractions. Taking the time to look around is worthwhile – then do a background check. Here are some pointers to help.

Great images include great backgrounds

A wonderful subject is not the only thing that makes a successful image. It is the whole image that the eye sees. A great subject but a distracting background you will lose the viewers eye to the background. Equally if the background is too cluttered it will draw attention away from the subject. Strong contrasts, clashing colours, peculiar events or something ugly in the background all take their toll.

Simplify, simplify, simplify…

Try to find interesting textures, colours and scenes for the background. Keep the contrasts to a minimum. Make sure no one is going to walk into the shot or create another type of distraction. In other words make it as easy as possible for your viewer to concentrate on the subject. It is all about showing off the best – and that is what you want the subject to be.

What to look for in a background

A certain amount of uniformity helps. If your background is too diverse the eye looks to see what the background is all about. Then the subject is lost to the eye. If it is too consistent the same is true. You risk losing the viewer because there is no background interest to off-set your subject. So there is a certain amount of artistic decision required. But with practice your eye will begin to see when something draws the eye once you become alerted to the impact of the background.

The background check

No, it’s not about identity papers. The background check is all about looking around your viewfinder to see what you think of the background. When you frame up the shot it is easy to think of the composition and placing the subject in an interesting position. But forgetting to check the quality of the background is fatal. Parked cars, flying balls, litter blowing in the wind – a whole range of distractions – can all suddenly appear. Worse, they can be there all along and you have just not seen them.

To do your background check is simple. Check around the edge of the frame. Make sure no odd items are sticking into the shot. Look for an interesting texture and colour range. Make the colours complementary and well defined, but not too contrasting. Check to see there are no very bright or dark zones. Brightness drags the eye off the subject. Darkness tones down the interest in the shot.

When you have checked everything, the background should be clean, tidy, well composed and not distracting. Then you can do one last quick check on your subject. If all is well press the Definition: Shutter Button. Presto – a great shot.

Creating the Perfect Background with Bryan Peterson

By way of example Bryan talks us through a situation in a park where he makes the best of the background – checking for problems and emphasising his subject.
Adorama Photography TV  External link - opens new tab/page

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Abstract photography – three abstract insights

When Science Meets Art - Fabian Oefner. (About abstracts in art)

• When Science Meets Art – Fabian Oefner •
Abstract art is all around us. Some projects get deep into special ideas. Others are more about the abstracts we all miss right in front of our eyes.
{Image taken from a video below}

Art is not straight forward

Abstract photography is often about how an artist views things rather than what is shown. Abstracts bring out the artists unique view of the world. The photog isolates the special characteristics of the subject.

The nature of abstracts is…

The photographers vision of the world is often about emotion. We are able to see into a subject because we become attached to it, understand it. We try to feel its impact on ourselves and to find a way to translate that into a picture. Often such “seeing” comes from a personal study of composition and aesthetics. It helps to understand the elements of art too. These are not requirements for making abstracts. They are a base for abstract seeing. They help artists analyse and know “abstract”. However, they contribute little to creating one.

The real issue is the way that an individual artist approaches making an abstract.

Abstract art comes to those who observe more than the “whole” of something. The minute detail through to the overall view of a subject is important. Abstract artists are aware of form and shape, texture and colour and a myriad of other detail. This awareness is different in everyone. Certain details catch the eyes of some people and not others. Some forms or patterns stimulate some and not others. This uniqueness is the key to “seeing” abstracts.

By ignoring some details or components of a scene or subject, and by building up others, it’s possible to construct the ‘abstract’. This is a new entity emphasising these details and elements.

Success in making abstract photos grows with experience of, and a personal view of, the subject matter. That might be made up of a deep study of the material and behaviour of the subject. It might also be a deep response to cultural and artistic baggage in the artists character. It could be both and more.

The mystery of creating abstracts?

The emotions that commit artists to a creative act are not easy to analyse. The act of creating abstracts is difficult too. By knowing a little of our own background, interests and experience we can see how to approach their creation.

Our own creativity can develop from learning about it in others. One route to knowing an abstract artist is via their enthusiasm and commitment. In the videos below you see into the artists themselves. They may help your view of the process of making abstracts.

The first artist is Fabian Oefner. His interest is in abstracts through science. He shows a number of his projects. He explains how they came about and what was involved.

Fabian Oefner: Psychedelic science  External link - opens new tab/page

Lester Hayes was an early maker of abstract photos. He knew very little to start. He talks about becoming involved and why he saw abstracts. Clearly there is a deep emotional commitment for him in making abstracts.

Abstract Photographer Lester Hayes Uploaded by Anthony Mournian  External link - opens new tab/page

Next, we visit the world of Sergio Muscat. His abstracts have an organic quality. He shows his wonder of nature. He explains where he gets his vision with quotes and written comments between pictures. I became wonderfully connected to his thinking while watching.
Sergio Muscat  External link - opens new tab/page
In the quote below he shows that photos reflect reality. But they interpret the world. His insight into abstracts is about the same plastic reality on which photography is based.

Unlike other media, a photograph is always based on a real, material origin. Rather than looking at this as a disadvantage, we should understand that this same fact makes photography the ultimate surreal medium – simply because photography, although based on reality, is very far from the truth.
Sergio Muscat – Abstract Photography – YouTube

Photos never truly show what the eye sees. This is a deep part of the ideas in abstracts.

Seeing is not knowing

We may come to know the nature of the ‘abstract’. Yet, abstracts are a fragile gossamer. Each has its own essence. Catch it and you may destroy it.

Knowing a little of the artist helps. With that we may know a little of their approach to abstracts. That way we may learn to bring it out in our own work.

Further reading on abstracts

In other articles I have looked at the nature of abstracts. For more interest, follow up on these…

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Why do new? Just do you!

Reflection of a girl in a shop window. Don't do new, do you

• Monochrome girl in blue •
When starting out try out lots of things. As you develop your interests will start to find a focus.

Style is you.

Photography is your interest. Do it your way. When learning you’ll find joy in just trying out many new things. As you develop you will find your way of doing things becomes a form of self expression.

Self expression

Letting out the inner you in your photography is one of the highest forms of success. Every photograph is a unique form of communication. So when you focus on something that you are interested in, passionate about, you express your inner self in a powerful way. Self expression is how top photographers make a success of their business. Clients come to them because they like the way the photographer does it.

Doing new is not you

Less experienced photographers think that they will only “make the grade” by dreaming up something new. It is a seductive idea – our modern culture is built on “new”. Trust me on one thing. There are very few ways of doing something “new”. New techniques, new ideas, never-seen-before views… totally new stuff – these things are far and few between. Photographs are published online in their millions every day – literally. A photographer cannot hope to do “new” all the time or even frequently.

“New” is something that will happen – but normally as a result of a very individual form of expression. When you really express you, really do it your way, you are doing “new”. Truly individual expression comes from doing it your way. The picture may be of an oft-seen subject. The way you do it is what will make it a lasting image in the mind of the viewer.

If you concentrate on developing your pictures around your special way of seeing you will be developing your style. That is what will give you the edge, the new way of doing it. Look for the light the way you like it. Take the point of view you like to see things from. Express the colours in the scene in the unique pallet you love to have around you. These things will all contribute to your style and your expression.

Ironic isn’t it? So many photographers look for the new, the different, the next new idea. If they spent a little time looking at what they were really interested in they would find the “new” within themselves.

Remember to enjoy your photography

If photography becomes an stressful search for something that is not in you, then the fun will go out of it. Investing your shoot-time in a personal interest will bring out your passion in a unique way. In so doing you will increase your enjoyment. You will also find the “new” you were looking for. You will also find a new way to express your inner feelings about the world around you.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

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Ten reasons not to take pictures for free

You and your camera go beyond your hobby

• You and your camera •
Don’t let your hobby take over your life or put you under undue pressure.

Don’t feel guilty saying no to “photography-for-free”.

Keen photogs will probably be asked to take photos for friends. OK. Don’t be shy. The odd shot is fun. It’s about being friendly. What about when that ‘ask’ is really a ‘job’? Here are the ten reasons you need to think carefully before committing to a job without pay…

1. What is a job?

There’s no clear definition. The line between amateur and professional is blurred. Making good or great images is not the only factor involved. Being a professional photographer involves a whole lot more. A keen amateur can produce great images. But can they do it under the same pressure that professionals work under? This is the key to the issue. When you agree to do a “pictures-for-free-gig” you are doing what a professional will do – and not getting paid for it. Can you perform to professional requirements and provide the goods despite the pressure and no pay?

2. When it does not come out right who is at fault?

You! The person who agreed to do this is you. And, the responsibility is yours to deliver. Can you – deliver? You had better be clear about that; and happy to provide a comeback when it fails. Professionals carry professional indemnity to cover serious disasters and legal proceedings. Do you have cover? Have you thought about the consequences for something priceless – your friendship? A possible law suite and loss of friendship can both be devastating.

3. Unforeseen problems

Your friends have asked you to do a job. Do you know what problems are likely to crop up? They probably do not… and they rely on your expertise. You might be happy to produce the shots but do you really know what else is needed? Jumping in blind can be a minefield. What are the expected shots for this type of shoot? Do you even know to ask that question? Do you know what you will need to do to get that information? If you have not worked out what is needed to cover eventualities when problems arise you are in a difficult situation. If you do not see the problems it will be your fault. Are you sure you have covered everything? Think again. And again. For you it’s about photos. For your friends it is about their memories. You really need to be sure you know it all and what will happen.

4. Your time will not be respected…

Your “friends” will expect you to be on call. You may be happy with that. But you have your life to live too, right? Nevertheless, you are doing the job and you will need to be the one who covers the time. Some events have a lot of meeting time and provision for professional input. Do you have that time? Rehearsals, shoot lists, requirements and principle characters are all important and as the photographer you may have to meet them all. You may be required to meet people both during working hours and at evenings and weekends. You may be involved in planning for months ahead of the event. You will need to be ready to fall in line. If you are not being called to these meetings then you are potentially building up a legacy of problems for the day. When you don’t know the details of the event minute by minute but are required to get all the shots, who is at fault? Your time is important to the event. Or at least that is the way it will be seen by the event organisers. Can you really provide that resource? For free?

5. Professional standards

Sure, you will be told, “We don’t expect professional standards”. Your friends have seen your images. They know you are good. Will they feel so forgiving when you do not produce one hundred top quality images with all the expected and formal variations for their wedding, party, engagement, event etc.? One or two good ones from a shoot is great. For your personal interest it may be what you want. When you are working for someone else their expectations are more exacting. Professional standards are expected for all the shots, not just a few. Be ready to provide for that.

6. Things do go wrong!

You are the ONE! The person for the job. Do you have the eventualities covered? Here are some of the sort of things photographers might encounter…

  • You drop and break your camera on the day;
  • Your memory card is defective;
  • You get sick;
  • On the day you discover you are not allowed to use flash in church;
  • You break a lens;
  • Your daughter breaks an arm the day before the event;
  • You’re asked on the spot for shots you’ve not agreed or were not prepared to do;
  • A passing pedestrian steals your camera bag  External link - opens new tab/page;
  • A drunk guest wants to take “up front pictures” while you are doing the formal shots;
  • Extreme sunlight outside the church will blow out the white on the brides dress;

A professional photographer will have contingencies, strategies and cover for things like these. Things always go wrong in some respect. You need to cover for all these and be prepared for more. And, you need to do it for free.

7. People don’t value things that come free

It is almost a cliché – “the best things in life are the most expensive”. It may not be true. But it is a public perception. If you are doing this “job” for free there can be consequences. Your advice will be devalued because you are free. You will be on the same advice level as Aunt Mavis, the brides father and others. Worse, the chap down the road who is a retired photographer and family friend (who has never used a digital camera) will also be advising out of your earshot. Working in those conditions adds a pressure that is a new dimension beyond friendship (and professionalism). Be aware that doing the job – even if you get it right – may still damage your friendship.

8. Post production

A professional photographer provides an after-shoot service. Within a week the processed images are provided as contact-sheet choices for final prints. There may be a need for a book; a cd; other types of mounted images. Be prepared for about four or five days processing work. Then you will need to provide for the future requirements. You will need to be ready to send out images, keep copies available for updates and reprints for several months. You will also need to retain the images on file indefinitely (securely). You will need to make solid editorial decisions about which images you allow to be seen and which you do not. You may have a thousand images… common for amateur digital photographers. Post production is a big part of a professional shoot. Can you resource it? Can you make the grade in post production? Can you resist when your friends says she wants all the images, not just the ones you chose? Feel good about that?

9. One for free… many more to go

Once people know you do professional work – without the cost – you will be in the front line. All sorts of pressures and unreasonable requests will be made. You will be taken for granted. And, it will be up to you to resource it. Travel, printing, expenses, processing, insurance, time, new equipment – there is more to shooting regularly than simply turning up with your camera. You have to provide resources too. Remember, you will not have the benefit of income for it either. How do you say no to other friends and family when you have done a professional job once already?

10. Photography is fun – right?

Doing the free stuff is fun when you are doing it for you. There is a completely different spin on it when you are doing something under pressure for someone else and not getting anything but hassle in return. Professionals enjoy their job. They are prepared and resourced for the problems and pressures. You need to have the same resources and cope with those pressures too – free. Where is the fun in that? Taking a photography “job” for free takes the fun out of your work. And, it is no fun being taken for granted.

The overview

Despite the opinion of many people, photography is a job. There are professional standards, costs, requirements and pressures. You may want to take up professional photography. That’s fine. However, be prepared. I have pointed out the professional dimensions.

The key point is simple. There are additional pressures on you and your friendships when you let yourself be taken for granted by doing free work. Sometimes they go beyond professional pressure.

Feel free to do family shots, fun activities and enjoyable photography. Even a little charity work and some contributions to local groups are fine – on your terms. Be prepared for something that looks like a “job”. A polite withdrawal will be looked on with respect and friendship once you explain the pressures involved. Failing to make the grade will not be looked on with simple forgiveness.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Can you write? Of course you can!
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