There are photographers who think they are lucky if they find unusual or special subject. But it is never the subject that is so marvelous. It is how alive and real the photographer can make it.~Edouard Boubat
I saw this grasshopper one morning perched on an aloe vera plant at the house. It was still and I immediately saw the reason for its non-activity. Missing were its most powerful anatomical parts – its hind legs. Hurriedly I took out the digital camera and took shots. Some thoughts ran into my mind – I was taking advantage of a poor, hapless creature. But then its immobility was a strong attraction. For crying out loud, now was not the time to have a conscience for a cricket! So I snapped on, took different angles, tried different perspectives and came out with a couple of dozen shots. Afterwards, I took hold of the creature by the wings and gently settled it on a bush across the fence. In its condition, I don’t know if it could even survive the day but I thought I had done my part by placing it in a most conducive environment. And the lesson is? Photographers may be relentless, inflexible and determined when it comes to taking a shot, yet they are only human; they also have a heart. Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead!
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!
A photographic urge is like a bodily itch, there is only one immediate solution – scratch. In a photographic situation, you can’t help it, you have to take a snap and hope for the best.
I have been to dozens of churches in the Philippines and they are some of my most favorite photo subjects. The older, bigger and more elaborate the church structure, the better. But there are many modern ones that catch my eye, with their attractive geometric designs. Like the above church interior when I was in Cebu City. It was the first time for me to see this particular church and as I entered its door the Mass had just started. It was filled with people and the first thing that struck me was the ceiling design above the altar. I did not want to attract attention and disturb the solemnity of the proceedings so I slowly took out the point and shoot on my belt pouch, turned it on, raised it and took a one-handed snap, all under five seconds. Some people saw me and gave disapproving looks. I bowed my head, closed my eyes and prayed for two things: apology from the Lord above, and hope that I had a good shot. The above picture was the answer. Though patience is an endearing trait of the photographer, there are times when the urge gets the better of him and he just has to take a snap, foregoing all processes of thought and forgetting all about composition. This is not an ideal situation for a thinking photographer. Yet sometimes, there is that rare moment when the photographer leaves it all to divine providence.
Today’s photographers think differently. Many can’t see real light anymore. They think only in terms of strobe – sure, it all looks beautiful but it’s not really seeing. If you have the eyes to see it, the nuances of light are already there on the subject’s face. If your thinking is confined to strobe light sources, your palette becomes very mean – which is the reason I photograph only in available light.~Alfred Eisenstaedt
Photographs are created within a spatial context, and that context is the viewfinder frame. This may be carried through unchanged to the final image, whether print or on-screen, or it may be cropped or extended. In whichever case, the borders of the image, nearly always a rectangle, exert strong influences on what is arranged inside them.
There is an important distinction, nevertheless, between composing photographs in the frame as they are intended to be, and planning ahead to either crop or extend the frame. Most 35mm film photography has been concerned with tight, final composition at the time of shooting, and at times this has led to a culture of demonstrating the fact by showing the rebates (the frame edges of the film) in the final print—a way of saying “hands off” once the shutter has been released. Square-format film…is less amenable to comfortable composition, and is often used for later cropping. Large format film, such as 4×5-inch and 8×10-inch, is large enough to allow cropping without much loss of resolution in the final image, and is also often cropped, particularly in commercial work. Now digital photography adds its own twist to this, as stitching becomes more widely used for panoramas and over-sized images…
Facility at using this frame depends on two things: knowing the principles of design, and the experience that comes from taking photographs regularly. The two combine to form a photographer’s way of seeing things, a kind of frame vision that evaluates scenes from real life as potential images…
~Michael Freeman from his book The Photographer’s Eye
Capturing character is all about portraying subjects as they are – a genuine representation of the person or people. Far removed from the super smooth, heavily processed, angelic faces we see on magazine covers, character portraiture presents subjects in real-life appearance with all their attributes, expressions, nuances and details. Such as the picture below which is a study of characters in contrast: the lines, creases and wrinkles of old age, and the soft, smooth features of youth.
In his article Character Portrait Photography Tips And Techniques, long-time photography instructor Wayne Turner offers some pointers:
1. Treat the subject with dignity
2. Capture the face
4. Add some environment
5. Relax your subject
6. Focus on the hands
7. Black and white
8. Available light
Go over the article of Turner and read his brief explanation on each of the tips. It will just take you a couple of minutes. And may I add, when capturing the face make sure as much as possible to have the eyes clear and in focus. Eyes are expressive and truly are the windows of the soul. You may have noticed in reportorial images of persons whose identity are hidden, that their eyes are blocked off, covered or superimposed with a black rectangle. Eyes reveal much, both the identity and the character. The bottom line, people photography is about capturing personality, emotion and mood. The subject may not be all sunny and smiles, and may not be the most beautiful and photogenic face in the world, but it is incumbent upon the photographer to capture subjects in the most actual, factual and categorical manner. Turner aptly puts it this way: “Character photography is all about capturing the essence of your subject and conveying who they are and what they do.”
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.
We, photographers of all levels, like to say we can shoot anything. And that’s what millions of other casual shooters armed with cameras on their smartphones do not say, that is what they do. So what makes us any different from them who fill Facebook, Twitter and a host of other photo sharing and social media sites with billions of photos? They take snapshots, we take photographs. There is not much thought when you take snaps – it’s the random shoot anything-anywhere-anyhow-anyway. Easy. But when you take photographs you consider the lighting, the shape, the form, the texture, the colors, the lines, the subject in relation to its background or other elements, or the lack of. You frame and compose your shot. You scan the surrounding, notice and observe. You think. And you got questions in your mind. Is this pleasing? What if I do it this way? Is this interesting? How can I make the subject stand out? Yes, all those with cameras – from smartphones to point and shoots to dslr – can shoot anything, but not anyone can produce a good photograph. Why is this so? The avid, passionate photographer has something which the casual shooter doesn’t have – knowledge. Whether hobbyist, enthusiast or even professional, they all strive to learn to improve and better their craft. They read books, articles, tips and techniques, and apply these through experimentation and practice. And they shoot and shoot. Never fearing what could be wrong, yet always hoping that the image they took was the clear result of instinct and learning developed through patience and persistence. Yes, anyone with a camera can shoot anything, but only a true photographer can shoot something of value and come out with a prize – the appreciation of his audience.
Article Excerpt: “Very few people know that macro photography is a primer for taking perfect portraits…Once you master this skill, you’ll see it pop up in your portrait photography too. You’ll start paying attention to the jewelry people are wearing, their eyebrows, the shininess of their lipstick, and the reflections on their sunglasses. It all adds up, and some of it detracts. Great portrait photographers know how to tone down the distractions while emphasizing the interesting details…If you think about it, that’s the only difference between a highly experienced photographer and someone just starting out. Photographers who have been there know which details matter the most. They can see a photo happening before they’ve even pressed down the shutter. Strengthening your macro photography skills will only get you closer to this goal.”~David Peterson from his article 3 Things Macro Photography Can Teach You About Taking Portraits
With nearly two thousand photos of various fiesta and festival events in my collection, it is but natural that I release a fiesta-themed issue of Junsjazz Digital Magazine. And that one, Issue #6, will come out this weekend. It contains select images from Philippine Festivals I had the opportunity to experience and document. This Issue promises to be very colorful, just like the tribal performer in the photo. For those new to this blog, I come out with an interactive online photography magazine and have published five issues so far. The Fiesta Issue is the sixth. And again I feature guest photo bloggers and their works. There are seven of them, each with her own two-page magazine spread. Yes, I said “her.” They are all women photographers. To access these online publications just click on the digital magazine picture at the top of the sidebar.
Article Excerpt: “The differences between the technical and artistic photographer can be explained in terms of cerebral lateralization – what the popular press often describes as “left versus right brain.” The left side of the cerebral cortex tends to involve thinking that is more logical, analytical, objective, sequential, detail-oriented, concerned with reality, and focused on language, facts, patterns, and order. The right side involves thinking that is visual, emotional, subjective, intuitive, spatial, holistic, and based on symbols, metaphors, and imagination…What’s interesting about photography is how it calls for a robust engagement of both sides of the brain…most photography will require us to draw on the visual thinking of the right brain while also employing the left brain to master the technical aspects of working the camera and processing the image. To produce good photos, technical photographers will need to draw on a right brain appreciation of visual design and composition, whereas artistic photographers will need to tap left brain thinking in order to learn the tools of the trade that help them actualize their artistic visions.”~John Suler on Technical and Artistic Photographers from his article series Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche
Article Excerpt: “In her book On Photography, Susan Sontag describes photography as a tool of power. In a predatory way, photographers scan their territory, stop, shoot, move on, and later display their collection of trophies for others to see. They appropriate, tame and master the situation by visually capturing and preserving it. They isolate a moment of time out of its connectedness to other moments, separate it from its environment and a larger reality, freeze it in taxidermy fashion, impose their own interpretation and viewpoint on it. By fixating that moment, they keep things the way they are and attempt to prevent the inevitability of change. They offer proof that they were there, that this thing happened, that this thing existed. At the very least, by recording and interpreting an event, they put themselves in a relationship to the world that feels like knowledge, and, therefore, power.”~John Suler on The Good Capture from his articles Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche
Put simply, if you really want to throw the background out of focus, get really close to your main subject.~Jim Richardson (Photo location: a shooting buddy during a trip to Guimaras island, Philippines)
I’ll be out for two or three days. I’ll be going to Metro Manila to attend to some matters. The metropolitan capital of the Philippines is two hours north from where I reside. I probably won’t be blogging until this weekend. I hope I get through it. Like most of you, blogging for me has become a daily activity. A day seems incomplete without me posting something. But anyway I leave you with the photo above. Let’s always be inspired, creative and clicking. For us artists – writers, poets, photographers – its our way of life. Take care everyone!
Yes folks, you can now enjoy Issue #5 of Junsjazz Images & Inspiration Digital Magazine. It carries an all black and white theme and features the following photographers and a selection of their works:
Shannon James O’Neill
My heartfelt thanks to them for sharing their time and talent in this ongoing digital publishing project. Same gratitude goes to six other photographers I have previously featured. You’ll notice that Issue #5 has an edgier design and meticulous lay-out. I guess I wanted to outdo myself with each new Issue. I hope you’ll have a great time going over it as I did creating it. Again, put on those headphones for a multimedia experience. Thanks!
Issue #5 of the digital magazine edition of this blog will be out later this week. This is the most ambitious issue so far in this ongoing online project of mine. It has an all black and white photography theme, thematic background music, subtle lay-out changes and design, contextual voice-overs and, from eight pages in the first issue, this latest outing has now ballooned to 26 pages from cover to cover. Half of it is devoted to six photo bloggers who have responded to my invitation to be featured in Issue #5. In the above magazine cover pic, their names have been deliberately blot out; I will reveal them when the issue goes online. Before that happens, I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart these six photographers who took the time from their busy lives to coordinate and communicate with me with regards to the content, materials and permissions to use their copyrighted works. For that I am grateful. For the past two issues, I have been sharing this digital platform with photographers and it gives me immense pleasure and satisfaction that in my own little way I get to confer recognition to my peers. And I’ll keep doing so in the next issues.
This post title reminds me of the film Sniper starring Tom Berenger and the more recent one Shooter with Mark Wahlberg in the lead. Both played the roles of top-notch snipers battling it out with equally proficient snipers. Well, in our more sedate and bloodless version, we’ve done this before – shoot the shooter. Probably in photowalks with our shooting buddies, we have taken pictures of them, with or without them knowing it. I prefer candid shots, with them unaware that I’m sniping. But I don’t know if its a photographer’s instinct because they always seem to notice when someone takes their picture and by reflex they shoot back at you. There are no special rules or guides but we should take pictures of photographers in the best possible way. After all, they are our kind. (Photo location: My photo buddy Jett at Ninoy Aquino Parks & Wildlife, Quezon City)
I am more on landscapes, seascapes and vistas. I am not much on macro photography because that field requires specialized equipment (which I don’t have), extended patience (which I lack) and good eyesight (which I’m not blessed with that’s why I wear glasses). But there are times I get to peer at the “liliputian” world where my feeble attempts at imitating macro masters end up with passable images like the above.