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In the Douglas Kirkland on Photography series, well-known photographer Douglas Kirkland explores a variety of real-world photographic scenarios, sharing technical insights and critiquing the results.
In this installment, Douglas discusses the importance of developing a sense of photographic vision: keeping your mind and eye open for photographic opportunities, and maximizing those opportunities through composition and other creative decisions. The course begins with Douglas reviewing images from his personal collection. He discusses the importance of observation and exploration for a photographer, how to see art in everyday situations, and why one should always have a camera nearby.
Douglas then goes on location to shoot in and around Korakia Pensione, a resort in Palm Springs, California. He explains his creative and technical decisions as he shoots, and describes how natural lines created by architecture and light can help make an effective photograph. The course continues on a hike through a Palm Springs canyon, where Douglas captures images in the field, working with moving water, highly textured rock faces, and even some local wildlife. Finally, Douglas wanders through downtown Palm Springs armed with a simple point-and-shoot camera, proving that with vision and an open mind, great images can be made with simplest equipment.
Download a free companion guide to Douglas Kirkland on Photography: A Photographer's Eye from the Exercise Files tab. The guide contains photos, detailed camera-setting information from the shoots in this course, and more tips from Douglas on improving composition and maximizing available natural light.
Now, here we are. I was sitting on this couch just a couple minutes ago. I looked over in the other room. I saw this great image. Look at the way the light is coming on the back of those flowers. That's a picture. And right from this very spot, I saw two other images. I want to show you what they are and how I photographed them. The first I am going to photograph with a long lens, a 70-200/2.8, and I've got my ISO at 2,500. It's not bright, but it is beautiful. And I'm coming up here. And yes, beautiful.
I am going to, just for the fun of it, do a horizontal as well. Maybe I am finding different images each time. What specific things I'm seeing is the light coming through the glass. Just look at that. It's very beautiful. And then the delicate light on the flowers themselves, and with a flattened perspective it gets stronger; each element makes it stronger. You say, how do you flatten the perspective? By using the telephoto lens. So that's there. But now I want to go to another lens. I'm going to go switch over to a 24-105 zoom, because I see two other pictures.
I saw them as I sat here, and I want to include you in on this, because I am going to stand up and just show you another picture. I'm very sensitive to light, to color, and form, and that's why I feel and see here this beautiful, wonderful green in the foreground, and then you go and you see into the room. I love a frame, because what it does is it makes the image much more dimensional. Whenever I can, I find a frame. I mean, whether it's looking through a doorway, a window, or in this case, an arch in the room, because that gives you more sense of depth and reality.
It is part of the beauty of almost sketching your image, and you can do it with your camera, if you just give yourself the time to look. Be careful always. Don't rush it; take your time. Oh, this is beautiful! I mean, the light in the room, the form that I have here. Let me just see if I can do a vertical while I'm here. It maybe not work as well, but it might be useful. It might be interesting to have. Beautiful! Within a step or two, I see another image, and how can you not? It's the globe of the world.
I don't know what era this is. Let me just turn over here and come over to this other side. So what I'm seeing here is, again, this beautiful combination of colors and the globe. This is your search. This is your creativity. What I am seeing is a beautiful contrast of colors, obviously the beautiful form of the globe, and then I've intentionally included some of the background back there, just so you can see, again, distance. And this is almost like a panel that it's in front of.
That is the subtlety of moving the lens, the focal length, the camera, and treating an image like this very carefully. The interesting thing is, whenever I walk around, I see images. For example, a few minutes ago I was just walking through this doorway. I saw my wife's jewelry here, Francoise's jewelry, which is just dropped there, but I saw a picture. I saw a picture for two or three reasons. First it's the beauty of the jewelry-- look at this table that it has fallen on.
Then I loved the mirror in the background. So I want to show you what I see and how I treat this with my camera. Again, I am on 24-105 zoom, and I am coming in, very much on top, and I'm seeing this beautiful form here. I love that shape. Okay, there is it. There, that's cool. Now there is another picture that I want to make that was--probably the first one I really saw was the reflection back there. So there are, like, two wonderful pictures here.
It's the first image of this, but then the repeat of it. What I have to be careful of is that I don't get myself in the mirror. I fortunately can see that very carefully in this single-lens reflex that I am shooting with. And it works nicely. This image, I feel, is successful, because it has the form, the shape that I love, and the surprise of a secondary image. That is special.
I like to come in now with a macro lens. So let's try that, because I see still other images here. This is a macro 2.5 lens. I am going to still shoot the stop down probably some. The composition I'm seeing now is right-- I am not even including the edges of this. I am just seeing this form. This is again--and one other interesting point that has been made to me frequently is you have to feel a center in any tabletop or close-up.
In other words, everything has to revolve around a center. And that's what's happening here. I feel this works, and you see, there is the center right here. Everything is enhancing it. That's part of really critical composition in close-up.
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