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Posts Tagged ‘photography

Here we go…

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Today is my 30th birthday.  Birthdays are interesting occurrences – they’re almost like New Year’s, but just for you.  A time for reflection and evaluation.  This morning I found myself taking a personal inventory, thinking “I still don’t know how to fold a fitted sheet, but I am getting pretty decent at parallel parking.” By 30 it’s pretty much established whether you squeeze the toothpaste tube from the top or the bottom.  How you feel about meatloaf is finally settled.

The first thirty were about training. Acquiring some experience and establishing some convictions.  The next thirty are for action.  The pieces are set, now its time to play.  Just you, a looming game board and that intimidating figure known as “Your Existence”

Time to start focusing my photography.  Begin trying to tell the stories of our times.  Attempt images that speak to the rational and the irrational; that appeal both to mind and to heart.

I firmly believe in the ability for images to impact change.  Photography is all about creating an emotional reaction in the viewer. Composing highlights, shadows and midtones into a message.  Hopefully a message with an edge.

Lots to do.

But luckily that all starts tomorrow and today is one of good friends and family.  Thanks to everyone who made this day feel incredibly special, it will go down as one of the best birthdays I can remember.

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A Second Glance

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The best photographs are the ones that require study.  In a world where imagery is strewn about with unprecedented rapidness, I appreciate the favor of something pausing me for a moment.  One superlative second of introspect reflecting a moment of captured time.

Billboards, Google and iPhones all attempt to seduce our attention. We whirl through our days in a protective stance from new input.  But every so often, something taps us and asks for a second glance.  That’s what a solid photograph does – it requires a second glance; initially from the photographer and secondarily from the viewer.

Written by Spelman

01/20/2010 at 12:38 am

On the Road…

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After an incredible month in San Miguel I flipped around 2 days later and have been continuing to work on my project in Mississippi.  Lots of new photographs and thoughts on photography to report.  But it will have to wait until I return to Santa Fe…..  Stay tuned for new posts in early December.

Written by Spelman

11/27/2009 at 11:30 am

In San Miguel, Mexico

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Down in San Miguel for the month working with the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops.  It’s a vibrant city, easy to find picturesque scenes.  The inherent challenge for me in cities like this, is to find my own voice.  To stray away from the town center, the postcard pictures and the expected.  cartoon

Had my first experience with this a few nights ago.  Went to the Casino Bar with some friends to play some pool.  The Casino has a back room where the local men gather to play dominoes.  I approached them slowly, hanging out in the doorway and discussing dominoe strategy in broken Spanish.  Didn’t break out the camera for at least an hour, until after I had already played a game with them.    By then they were somewhat amused and comfortable with my presence.  Those are the moments I seek when traveling, when the photography is secondary to the encounter.

dominoes-1dominoes-2

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10/25/2009 at 2:46 pm

On Assignment in Santa Fe

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Just finished up a great week working with Ralph Lee Hopkins in National Geographic’s On Assignment in Santa Fe class.  Ralph’s been working on an important long-term project documenting the perils facing the Baja Coast of Mexico.  Check out his work here… Ralph Lee Hopkins.

The class can pretty much be summed up by the word “moxie” (having energy, pep and determination).  Up before dawn and fearless in their pursuit of finding the perfect f-stop, they produced some first-rate work.

I put on the ol’ tilt shift lens at one of our locations and had a great time making a few snaps of the dearest cowboy I know, Thomas Wingate of Eaves Ranch.

tilt shift

Written by Spelman

10/11/2009 at 7:17 pm

Photographic Crutches or The Evils Lurking in Your Back Pocket…

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The last post explored developing a photographic style – this one is about identifying photographic crutches.  On the surface the two may actually be difficult to differentiate between.   Both are identifiable as a thread of consistency within a portfolio.  The key difference is that photographic style originates from a place of originality and photographic crutches come from an over-reliance on a technical tool.

Every photographer has technical tricks in their back pocket.  A certain way of lighting a subject, posing a model or composing a frame that is comfortable and works.  Sort of like your throwing on your favorite movie and easing back to watch the expectedly entertaining.   You know Cary Grant is going to be solid and he never disappoints.  When a trick starts to turn crutch is when it hampers an original and new photograph from being made.

The first step is to become aware of crutches.  This requires becoming in tune with your own work on a deeper level.   Going beyond judging them on a “good” versus “bad” level and reaching an objective level of evaluating the “whys” and “why nots” of their success.

Because we’re all friends here, I’m going to share my latest crutch.  I identified it by making a Lightroom Smart Collection isolating all of my pictures keyworded “portrait” having at least 2 stars, and shot within the last 6 months.  Lightroom conveniently gathered all of my recently made portraits into a collection for me, from there it’s just a matter of really examining the images.

portraits at 1.4 aperture

I adore shooting people up close with a 1.4 aperture.  Keeping their eyes close, sharp and telling.   Letting the rest of the face fall softly out of focus.  Except I found a multitude of shots in the past months all using this same technique.  And while I like all of the portraits in this blog, I wonder, how many times did I not explore a fresh and original image in exchange for a picture that was familiar and safe?   Just like the favorite movie that gets replayed one to many times and loses it verve, wide open and oh-so-close is taking a hiatus from my back pocket.

Written by Spelman

10/05/2009 at 10:19 pm

Developing Your Photographic Style

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Picture 1Become serious about photography and there is one piece of advice you’ll hear over and over again – work on developing a sense of style.  And for a long time the idea confounded me. I understood the concept, sure. Find a way of shooting that separates you from the masses. Be different. Be original. Be yourself. Period.

Except I would look at my pictures and they would be one-hit-wonders.  Each one would look like it was captured by a different photographer.  Guess what?   It’s normal. Sorta like when hot pants make a reappearance in summer fashions. (I know all you men are following this analogy closely)  You take a few pair into the dressing room, give ’em a whirl in the mirror and realize you just aren’t as trendy as you thought you were. Then it’s back out to the racks to locate something a bit more classic. Breathe a sigh of relief, it’s you.

Same goes with photography. For a sense of consistency to start appearing in your work – you not only need to shoot a lot, but also with a sense of direction.  So how do you find that direction? Go get a piece of paper and a pen and try this. Seriously, you have to write it down for it to work, something about the act of actually manifesting a thought physically onto paper instead of just in your head is important. On the top of the page write the thing you like to shoot most.  Landscapes, people, llamas, whatever. Just make sure it is just one thing. Now underneath it number 1 through 5. Next to each number write a trait that describes you. Extroverted, contemplative, funny…  be honest, your list is just for you.

styleblog-4Over the next month start shooting that one thing using those descriptive words. Focus less on what the thing looks like and more like making it feel like the words. Somewhere in there lays your voice.

The two images in this post are a couple of my attempts at working on style. Practicing has the great benefit of allowing that inner-voice to speak up.  The work I want to make is rooted in a sense of mystery. Asking questions, not answering them.   That’s what I think about before I click the shutter.

Written by Spelman

09/30/2009 at 4:10 pm