I continue to explore the coast and harbors close to home looking for different viewpoints. On this particular morning I was on location while it was still dark and as the sky began to lighten ventured beyond the warmth of my car. Overnight there had been a light dusting of snow, most of which had been blown away but some remained, to provide highlights to the buildings and rocks. Unfortunately what I took for snow on the breakwater was actually a layer of ice. Waves washing up and over the breakwater had left the breakwater with a thin, but very slick coating of ice. My first confident step onto the ‘snow’ put me very quickly on my back. Fortunately neither me nor my gear were worse for wear and I was able to make this image. I was however much more careful as I returned to the car!
I’m sure that most people recognize the title of today’s post as Polonius’s advice to his son Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. For me, it evokes memories of one of the worst training sessions that I have ever attended and still managed to complete. I was part of a group working with an actor to develop our presentation skills. ‘To thine own self be true’ was one of the phrases that we were using to make sure that we projected to the back of the room.
The phrase of course had meaning in itself – by being authentic you are able to give a much better presentation. Part of the workshop was to explore who we were as individuals, what was our story and how would that impact how we approach presentations. At the time I thought it was utterly hokey and wanted little to do with it. With time however, I’ve come to believe that success, with presentations or otherwise, will follow when you are true to yourself.
This is something that is echoed in Dane Sanders‘s story about his own career as a photographer in ‘The Fast Track Photographer‘. Dane was pitching himself as ‘Santa Barbara’s Premier Wedding Photographer…’ when in fact he had little experience. Once he changed that message to one that more accurately represented him the work began to flow in.
In a culture where ‘fake it ’till you make it’ is the rule, being true to yourself can be a challenge but one that’s ultimately worth it.
When I was on vacation with my family last summer I came across these interesting pilings at the beach. I felt that this would make a good subject for a photograph but didn’t have an opportunity to return to make the photograph I had imagined. Fortunately we were back in the area recently and I made the most of the one morning that we had clear skies to make the image above.
I’ve been thinking a lot about vision, voice and style recently. Perhaps in part because I’ve been listening to David DuChemin on creativeLIVE. One of the exercises that David suggests to help develop your vision is to take a look at other photographers work and ask what were they were intending with the photograph. This and much more can be found in David’s eBook ‘Vision Driven‘. I’m much more of a techno geek and so delving into this kind of descriptive activity is very difficult for me. So how to start?
George Barr‘s latest book – Why Photographs Work: 52 Great Images Who Made Them, What Makes Them Special and Why is as good a jumping off point as I can think of. Each of the 52 photographs is first discussed by George and then the photographer also provides a perspective on the image. This is quite a unique opportunity to get behind the scenes with some of my favorite photographers – David Ward, Joe Cornish, Charlie Waite, & Michael Kenna to name a few. There are also a good number of photographers here that I wasn’t previously familiar with, such as Christopher Burkett & Michael Levin, whose work is quite well worth further study.
I am reminded that there are other sources for a discussion of making of the images. Many coffee table photography books have descriptions of the photographers intent at the back of the book, along with the technical details. Additionally there are a number of ‘Making of . . .’ books worth a look. Perhaps the most notable is Ansel Adams’s Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs but I’m sure there are others.
Recognizing that I have these resources to hand to help me develop the language skills that I need to describe the intent of a photograph I’m off to practice!
I have family that live out on the end of long island. The most relaxing way of getting to the end of long island from home, just south of Boston, involves taking the ferry from New London to Orient Point. The ferry ride breaks up the trip nicely and gives me an opportunity to stretch my legs. I always debate whether I should bring my camera along with me on the ferry ride, that is, not leave it in the car and I generally do opt to take it with me unless it is raining. On this occasion I had stopped in Greenport on the way to Orient Point to poke around the docks looking for anything interesting without any success. As I approached the ferry dock it looked like rain and so I was very close to leaving my camera in the car. At the last moment I decided not to. As I waited for the ferry to leave, the storm that had been brewing blew through. On the leading edge were the tremendous cloud formations that I spent the next 10 minutes photographing. Never have I been happier to have my camera with me!
I came across an interesting quote on the lifehacker site recently.
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with – Jim Rohn
No studies to back this up but it does seem intuitive.
Surround yourself with people who create and innovate and push you to do the same and you in turn will grow. The start of the new year seems like as good a time as any to make sure you’re in the place you wish to be and make changes if you aren’t.
I mentioned in my previous post that we looked at a lot of images each day as part of the critique sessions. This was enormously helpful for me. The other thing that was a revelation was having Alison review and process her images from the evening shoot at Lucy Vincent beach with us in the classroom.
We arrived at Lucy Vincent beach maybe 2 hours before the sunset and during the course of the evening I went on to fill 4 x 8 Gb memory cards. I know I take a lot of photographs. Most of my photos were just nasty and I would have saved time by not uploading the first 2 cards. The thing that surprised me was that Alison’s photos were too! She didn’t have a special ‘pretty picture’ button on her camera that made everything look good but when the light softened then things began to get interesting.
Of course this is something that I already ‘knew’, after all my buddy Adrian blogs about his early morning adventures frequently and has images to show for his labors, but not something that I had truly internalized. In reality of course there’s no such thing as bad light but rather light that is not appropriate for a particular subject. My intrinsic bias is for more intimate scenes which are often best captured with overcast skies, but I realize that from some of the grander seascapes that I would also like to do justice to there’s no escaping the need to be up early to catch the early morning light and to stay out late to capture subjects at sunset.
Earlier in the year I picked out a couple of workshops that I wanted to attend for 2010. I’m just back from the first of those – Alison Shaw’s Photography Workshop that she runs twice in the fall on Martha’s Vineyard. It was an amazing experience. I highly recommend it and suggest that you run right now to book your place on the next one.
The workshop followed the format that most photography workshops do – a flexible schedule that allows you to be at the best locations for a given weather. We were very lucky in that most of the days we had a fabulous sunrise and sunset. I think that the class found the sunrise and sunset to be less interesting than what the change in light did to the subject that they had chosen to photograph. A topic for another post. After a week of getting up at 4.30 am and then not getting to bed until 11 pm I was exhausted.
The morning sessions typically began with the group arriving on location around 5.30 am, and went until the light got bad or we got hungry. We then headed off to the local diner for breakfast, which was typically a pretty substantial meal since we had been up at that point for 3 or more hours but additionally calories that I could well do without! Breakfast was a fun opportunity to get to know some of the other folks taking the workshop and to talk photography.
One of the things that I really enjoyed about the workshop was the critique sessions. Every day we reviewed as a group, 4 images from each participant with Alison provide her critique. This meant that we were critically looking at least 64 images per day, most of which were a unique take on the locations that we had been to in the last day or so. I felt that this alone was worth the price of admission. The other thing was that I really felt connected to the group, want to stay in touch and see what they do next.
As I said above an amazing experience and one that I look forward to next year.
The tools we have available to us to connect with our tribe are phenomenal. Most of the pro-photographers (and many of the keen amateurs too) I know have a website and associated blog, Facebook Fan page and use Twitter.
One of the neat things that the Twitterati do is to highlight other Twitter users that provide useful posts – they call this ‘Follow Fridays’ and use the hash tag #FF. I thought that it would be fun to occasionally highlight some of the interesting blogs that I have come across in recent weeks. Here goes:
This is the home of David duChemin, he of ‘Gear is good, Vision is better’, author of ‘Within the Frame’ and ‘Visionmongers’. He is also a principal author of a series of e-books (www.craftandvision.com) that push his message that to develop as a photographer you don’t need more gear, you should get out and use what you have. Lots of good posts here that generally leave me feeling better for having read them – try this one (http://www.pixelatedimage.com/blog/2010/03/speaking-at-amazon-5-things/) to start.
I believe that I found Sabrina Henry’s blog through some of her comments on Twitter. Sabrina is on a similar path to the one that I’m on and I enjoy reading her experiences, thoughts and opinions. I particularly liked this recent post: http://sabrinahenry.com/2010/03/25/how-we-see-ourselves/
Light in the Frame is the blog of Steve Coleman, an Australian photographer who is also the co-owner of a successful commercial design business. I really enjoy looking at Steve’s images (http://www.lightinframe.com/) and have enjoyed reading his posts regarding his approach. His editing post (http://www.lightinframeblog.com/?p=1765) particularly resonated with me. He seems to be more active on Facebook than he is on his blog.
I found Bruce Percy through some of the comments made by Steve Coleman. Bruce has a couple of e-books that are worth a read and it looks like there are a couple more e-books in the works. Bruce like Steve favors the Mamiya 7II system – I seem to be drawn to the work of photographers who either still use a film based medium format system or were long time users of a medium or large format system and bring that sensibility to their work with a DLSR.
If there were only one link on this page that you click on let it be this one. Sophie was diagnosed with ALL – Acute lymphoblastic leukemia on March 15, just a month short of her 1 year birthday. Sophie’s parents will need support to cover expenses associated with the cost of living at the hospital for weeks at a time while Sophie undergoes treatment and to help supplement their medical insurance which will not cover all of the medical expenses and medications. A group of generous and talented photographers have donated prints so that when you donate, regardless of the amount, you’ll get a great gift in return.
There are a huge number of opportunities for us to attend workshops in great parts of the world. How do you maximize your workshop experience? There are things that you ought to be considering as you select the workshop you want to attend to make sure that it’s a good fit. Some questions you should ask yourself are:
- What is my goal for this workshop?
- What are the 3 – 5 things that I want to focus on and get help with during my time at the workshop?
For the workshop leaders should ask the following:
- Will I spend a lot of time in the classroom, or will it be mostly outdoors?
- Will the instructor be shooting while we are out in the field? It can be hard to get the attention you need when the instructor is shooting.
- Will I receive lots of in-the-field instruction? Or am I expected to learn by watching the instructor?
- What is the number of students and instructor(s) in the class?
Field based workshops can be a great experience. Away from home you have few of the distractions that you would have at home and can focus (pun intended) on learning as much as you can. The one disadvantage is that the workshop is away from home which means that you are going to have one or maybe two chances to visit the same location during the workshop.
Having a chance to visit the same location at different times of day, different times of the year, in different weathers and different light will allow you to make great images. In addition to getting great light, familiarity with a location allows you to push pass the obvious images and make something more creative and unique. This of course means shooting locally.
While we often think that there are few opportunities to make great images locally, this is in part because we are so familiar with our surroundings that we have stopped really looking. I challenge you to take time during your daily routine to really look at the places you visit and travel through. My guess is you’ll find some great places to go shooting not too far from home.
After yet another rainy morning I headed out in the late afternoon with the hope that I would be able to make some interesting images as the storm cleared. By the time I got the beach the rain had ended but the wind had picked up. It was brutal down on the beach – dry sand was being blown making life very uncomfortable. Even the sheltered spot I made this image from wasn’t as sheltered as I had thought. When I reviewed them at home I realized that the fence on the left of the picture was swinging wildly in the wind. Fortunately I managed to get my timing right to allow me to make a few images where the fence was sharp.