About Me

My photo

I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I don't have anything to say...

Sure you do, you just haven't worked out what it is yet. Yesterday I spoke a little bit about the why of photography - why you want to capture an image of something. Lately in travel photography there tends to be a trend towards images that tell us more about the computer skills of the photographer than they do the actual subject. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against computer manipulation and creating art in Photoshop. But it ain't me. I like my visuals to tell me something I don't already know about the subject, to make me feel something about what I'm seeing.

I guess I come from a traditional, story-telling style of photography and that's where I feel most comfortable both in the work I produce and the work I admire and buy (my house is a virtual photographic book library, not to mention a collection of thousands of National Geographics going back to 1918!)

The images I really admire, and the ones I try to emulate as much as possible, are the ones where it's pretty obvious what impressed the photographer. Seeing as I live surrounded by the rainforest let's take it from a rainforest point of view.

What do I want people to know about my experience in the rainforest, to feel when they look at my photographs? Well firstly, as I sit down beside this little stream I enjoy the sound of the water flowing over the rocks and the peaceful sound it brings. So I want to include some of the river. I love the rich, thick, green canopy that lies over everything so I definitely want to show that.

But I also love the fact that the wind can blow things into little nooks and crannies to create patterns on a tree trunk that wouldn't normally be there creating a peaceful little scene. So I guess the theme I'm going for is one of tranquility with a sense of the harmony of nature.

So now we know what we want to say we have to figure out how. Firstly our river. Knowing that a fast shutter speed freezes the motion of the water but a slow one gives it that lovely, peaceful cotton candy look I choose a slower shutter speed.

By showing some green at the top, but not showing where it finishes, I give a sense of it continuing on for a long way in all directions and really covering the landscape. And by focussing on my little leaf on the log in the foreground I give a sense of nature's natural compositions (no I didn't put it there you cynics!).

So composition taken care of I then have to think about how much I want in focus. Well considering everything in the viewfinder is important I need everything in focus - which calls for a small aperture. I also know that on a sunny day there would be too much contrast to capture all this detail so I need to time my visit for a cloudy day so that I can record the vision I have in my head.

So you can see that I've used what's in front of me to say what I want to say without the need for manipulating anything in the computer. What I have manipulated is the time of day I photographed the scene, the lens I used and the composition I used. But through all those choices the actual subject is what shines through. There's no looking at the image and thinking 'wow I wonder how the photographer did that?'. Instead I hope you think 'wow that's a lovely place, the photographer must have really liked it. It looks very peaceful, I'd like to sit down next to that stream and take it all in.'

So don't think that you need to get all Photoshop-heavy to put a personal touch to your images and show what you want to say. Your subject is quite adept at helping you take images that show your feelings towards your subject - all you have to do is have the image in your mind of why you want to photograph something, pick the applicable time to be there and rely on that old favourite - technique and technology.

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