There is something about capturing water movement using long exposure. Ten, 15, 20 or 30-second exposure times will result in smooth, silky effects to the motion of water. We are always awed and amazed at such creative power of the camera. As everyone keen on photography knows, one needs a tripod and a steady base to achieve such effect. These three pictures, taken while I was on a rocking unsteady boat, were taken using the other creative extreme feature of the camera – fast shutter speeds enough to freeze movement. You can see water particles suspended in mid-air, a split second splash of time stopped from its proverbial march to eternity. Nothing mind-blowing really. Any camera or beginner can do this. But what strikes us, with the aid of technology, is the ability to capture a slice of time, to hold on to an extreme instance, a tick of infinity right there with the press of our fingertip. Photography endows us with this gift and capacity. The father of photojournalism Henri Cartier-Bresson expresses it this way:
“Photography is, for me, a spontaneous impulse coming from an ever attentive eye which captures the moment and its eternity.”
Piers and ports are not the most picturesque of subjects and locations. These places are usually a tangle of cargo, industrial materials and whatever can be transported on large ships. Then there are people. Unlike airports which are built as symbols of architectural beauty, ports are just that – transport hubs that play important roles in a country’s trade and commerce. We photographers, however, don’t always go for the picturesque, we go for the “photographable” whether it is a thing of beauty or not. There will always be a photo-reporter in us, capturing the essence and mood of a place. We like to document reality – the “how it is” as oppose to “how it should be” – simply because there are times we do not have a choice on our subject and situation. In other words, what we see is what we get. A wise photographer will visualize and compose his shot then seize the scene, be it a visually inspiring airport or a description-defying port.
As in our tips last week on photographing stained glass windows, we tackled on zooming out or backing farther away in order to capture the whole piece. On the other hand, we are advised to zoom in on parts and areas to emphasize details. In my experiences in photographing boats I also follow that process – get it wide to capture the subject whole then zoom in on areas to get some particulars. That way I get as much perspectives and variety in my shots. Details can be a confusing mishmash of objects, colors, lines, shapes and forms such as the picture of a tanker ship below, or it can be a clean image showing the finer points of a fisherman’s gear like the picture above. Why are details important? As in anything else, details comprise the big picture. Let me share a quote from sociologist Howard S. Becker:
“Every part of the photographic image carries some information that contributes to its total statement; the viewer’s responsibility is to see, in the most literal way, everything that is there and respond to it. To put it another way, the statement the image makes – not just what it show you, but the mood, moral evaluation and casual connections it suggest – is built up from those details.”