The irony is that landscape photography is extremely difficult to do well. You’re relying not only on finding beautiful landscapes to photograph, but being there at the same time the weather and light are working together to create the conditions that you can use to photograph the landscape in a way that fulfills your creative vision. It takes a dedication that most of us don’t have.
When we’re in a landscape, we see it in colour. Black and white photography strips away the colour, leaving the bare bones. The features of the landscape, such as rocks, trees and mountains, become compositional elements made up of light, texture and tonal contrast. Black and white is beautiful. The photo becomes an interpretation, rather than a literal representation, of the landscape. We’re seeing the artist’s personal vision, and emotional response to the landscape, as well as the place itself.
~Andrew Gibson from his article How To Capture Stunning Fine Art Landscape Photographs
It’s another month, and another issue of Junsjazz Digital Magazine has been published. Issue #7 presents a sampling of minimalist photographs from my image collection. It’s all about simplicity and order, and organized emptiness, if you can call it that. As tradition for the past four issues now, half of the magazine (which has grown to 34 pages from an original of eight) is devoted to guest photo bloggers and their works. I’d like to thank the following who have responded to my invitation:
Sally W. Donatello
Stephen G. Hipperson
Scott D. Hill
I extend my gratitude to them for generously sharing their impressive images through this digital magazine medium. Also starting with this issue is a new feature – a collaborative piece between a photographer and a poet – literally a fusion of imagery from the visual and the written word. Much thanks to wordsmith Kelly Hartland for joining forces with me. Again put on your headphones for a multimedia experience. You can check out all the Issues here. Enjoy!
I adore this article Finding Inspiration by master photographer Alain Briot. In it he defines and differentiates the relation between four of the most important aspects of photography – inspiration, creativity, vision and personal style. Here’s his take on these four:
A. One can be inspired without being creative.
B. One can be extremely creative without being particularly inspired.
C. One can be inspired and creative without fulfilling a personal vision.
D. Finally, one can have a personal vision without having yet developed a personal style.
Each of the aforementioned has its own explanation and I was impressed how Briot connected and correlated them. I will not expound further but will strongly suggest that you again set aside some five minutes or so of your time to go over this very compelling and informative article. In the latter part of his piece, Briot adds:
“Finding inspiration is an engaging subject. As we just saw there are many ways to find inspiration. Yet, there is one way that I have not discussed yet, and that is where your own internal inspiration, your “secret flame” so to speak, resides…This flame, this spark of energy, this initial internal combustion burst, resides within you. It has been there for a long time, most likely since the day you were born, and it is for you to discover if you do not know about it yet.”
For me, photography has always been a process of discovery, both of the world and of myself. When I look back at the pictures I took early on, they were amateurish, unpolished – works of an inexperienced snap shooter. I don’t know why I kept these crude pictures in my hard disk. I should have deleted them long ago. But I did not. Probably to serve a purpose such as a reminder that I should never take pictures like those again. So I read up on techniques, on styles, on the wisdom of the masters. I looked at lots of fine photos from books and on the internet. I experimented with my shots, practiced and trained my eye to “see” despite being nearsighted (I wear glasses). I learned to find photographic inspiration even in the most menial subjects. And learned to see the light such as in the picture above. Briot is right, it is within you. You have to discover that spark, and express it in your images.
Instead of a narrative explanation, we’ll just list down the features and differences between high key and low key images. Here goes:
1. Generally light and bright
2. Almost like overexposed
3. No real overexposure because there is no loss in details
4. Multiple light sources, controlled setting
5. Diffused lights to avoid harsh edges and shadows
6. Conveys a feeling of youthfulness, happiness and freshness
7. Used in fashion magazines, portraits, child and wedding photography
1. Overall dark and black, either part of the subject or the whole background
2. Appears underexposed
3. No real underexposure because there is no loss in details
4. Uses high contrast to define edges and emphasize the subject’s form
5. Uses less light source, even one is enough
6. Adds mood, mystery and drama
7. Used in product photography such as jewelry and cars
High key and low key are techniques used to add emotional appeal and impact on images. Which is why they are popular in commercial and advertising photography. Beyond those purposes, you can apply high key and low key shots to highlight and put focus on subjects in a dramatic manner. They are tools in the photographer’s palette of creative shots. The above images were taken not in controlled studio settings but out in the real world using natural lighting. They were further tweaked during post-processing.
At the root of creativity is an impulse to understand, to make sense of random and often unrelated details. For me, photography provides an intersection of time, space, light, and emotional stance. One needs to be still enough, observant enough, and aware enough to recognize the life of the materials, to be able to “hear through the eyes.”~Paul Caponigro
Book Excerpt: “The sole goal is to create compelling arrangements, and because of this, the eye and the brain are freed from the often constraining need to know what you are looking at so you can photograph it the “right way”…It is in these mundane locations where the two most common “rules” in all of photography can be learned and applied time and time again: the Rule of Thirds and the need to fill the frame. It is here where the eye/brain is awakened, liberated from the prejudice of what constitutes a “beautiful” image. It is here where the repetition of these two most basic of fundamentals is applied and affirmed. And once your eye and brain have been awakened, they will have an insatiable appetite for the mundane. You, too, will soon be saying, “Successful image making is all about the arrangement and not the content!”~Bryan Peterson from his book Understanding Composition Field Guide
Unless its a skyline of jagged peaks and mountains in a land-locked scene, your horizon won’t be a straight line. But if those mountains meet the sea in the distance, that meeting point will usually be a straight narrow line. We encounter these horizons during nature shoots – landscapes, seascapes, vistas, sunsets and sunrises. Now when framing, where do you place the horizon line? Should it be in the upper portion or lower portion? It depends on what you are going to highlight. If your subject is in the foreground, your horizon line will naturally be higher as you’ll be focusing on subjects down below, nearer you. If your subject is the sky or in the sky or up in the clouds, you’ll be pointing up and your horizon line be at the lower portion of the frame. What if your horizon line cuts across the middle of the frame. Others consider this a no-no. It just doesn’t follow through with the rules of composition. But heck, what are rules anyway? If the mountains in our example cast an interesting reflection on the sea, oh shoot to your heart’s content with the line in the middle. You are shooting for what is appealing, interesting and captivating; not for any rules. In the picture, my main subject is the man rowing his boat. I could capture him whole by zooming in, but I wanted also to include the subtle rays of the sun during that late afternoon so I pointed up a little. Which is why the horizon line placed lower from the middle portion, and it was okay since I had nothing to include in the foreground as it was all water. What was important was my main subject against an enchanting backdrop. And another thing, keep your horizon line level. Unless, for whatever effect and purpose you have in my mind, you want it tilted to one side. More on this topic from our mainstay photography instructor Darren Rowse with his write up Getting Horizons Horizontal.
“Keep it simple” is the oft repeated advice in photography. The concept of minimalist photography hatches on that word – simplicity. Images with a minimum number of components, sometimes almost bare in its presentation, with the subject sometimes out of the frame or if not, almost overwhelmed or reduced by negative space, color or background. Shots of this type when properly executed provides interest, drama and appeal to images. I won’t delve deeply into the topic but instead refer to photographer Simon Bray who explains everything in his article A 10-Step Guide to Superb Minimalist Photography. In it he expounds on what minimalism is all about, how to keep it simple, how color complements the lack of subject matter, how lines and textures compensate for a minimalist image, how to keep an eye out for stand-alone subjects, how to tell the story and get creative. The point in minimalist photography is to convey more from less and to be totally creative. It was jazz legend Charles Mingus who said: “Anyone can make the simple complicated; creativity makes the complicated simple.” Its like this, when you see a house with a window, focus on the window or even just part of it. When you see a door, focus on the handle. When you see a tree, focus on a branch or a twig. This again requires your photographic eye, trained for “seeing.” When thought out, envisioned and creatively captured, a minimalist image can be attention-grabbing, eye-catching and even enigmatic.