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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.
Today, I have some images I'd like you to see with me that are very personal. I've done this for year or so, and these are pictures that are part of what my environment is, as you may find in your environment too. This, I was just sitting down having lunch with a friend, and they brought this cappuccino, and there was a picture. I just had to take it. And here is my wife Francoise lying out, with the Mediterranean in the background--all sounds very glamorous, but it could've been Lake Huron or Lake Champlain, or who knows? Getting the sparkle in the water was significant for me.
And I had a 28-105 zoom lens, and I put a soft filter on it. I just wanted it to be a little more delicate. These are all the options we have available. Now, this is a week or so later. We're in Milan, having dinner outside at night with a friend of ours who was visiting us, and I saw, in front of her, the light from sky just as it was getting darker, about eight in the evening in the summer, reflected in the silverware. Look at that.
It's so nice; it's all around you. You just have to find it, discover it, and take it in; capture it. Again, now I'm up in Vermont with my daughters on vacation. I take a walk with them. They like to walk with me individually, and we talk about their life, my life, but I always have a camera with me. We came to a certain spot just by Lake Champlain where we were vacationing, and I saw this extraordinary spider crawling on the center of a flower.
This is actually a toilet in our home. It has just the skylight dropping light on it. Even a toilet can look wonderful. There are my glasses sitting on a table. Again, I did not put them there. I walked around, looking, and I urge you to do the same. It's there for you to find, if you just allow yourself the freedom. This is a sign of your great creativity that you have available to you. I'm going to show you three pictures taken from the same window.
This lady here is a wonderful Russian friend of mine whom I've known for many years. There is a sadness about this, because her world is somewhat collapsed. And you have the rain on the window, and I'm using her profile, and I'm allowing you to get the suggestion of Red Square there. And now here it is on the next morning. Look at that: the sun shines through, and you have this wonderful pattern on the wall. Again, be sensitive to what is there. Again, look at a different kind of light. It's still cold outside, but the warm light coming in from the direct sunlight.
And then this was a wonderful one. I got up at five in the morning, and the lights were still on from the night before, and the sun was rising. Again, with a third vision of St. Basil's in Red Square, all done from the same window within a twenty-four-hour period. And now we're going to go to Paris for a couple of minutes. This is a place called the Moulin Rouge. It's the red mill, it means, and it's a sign. It's a very famous place in Paris, and it's sort of a nightclub that's well known.
And I saw this gentleman working on the sign. But again, look. I'm watching the design, and I am actually looking at the shapes and the color. And now, I have three pictures here I want to show you. Again, I had a project to do. I had one day to move around Paris and do numerous images for Cartier magazine. So here is an area over in the left bank, the Rue de Buci. It's wonderful. It's summertime. You see a motor scooter going by in the foreground and the taxi, and then I came in closer on the people.
Then I moved in even still closer, and then ultra an close-up. What's on the table? I'm sure I have not shown you one picture here that wasn't made with just the real, natural light. This is another area of France, near Bordeaux, a place called Cap Ferret. Look at that--and this is real. I did not fake this. This is--look at the clouds. When you see something like that, you can't help but respond. And these pictures-- you might be interested in knowing--were done with just a little point-and-shoot camera. Yes, you can make good pictures with your point-and-shoot if you use it well, but again, it's being sensitive to what's there.
If you do travel pictures, or any pictures as far as that goes, just be sensitive of what's there and give it time. Keep watching. And there may be times when you say "this isn't working" and you walk away or move away. But when it's there, just spend a few more minutes and ask yourself, is there some way I can compose this better? And here we are, back right where we are sitting today, near Palm Springs. And again, it's seeing it, taking it, and that's our show for the day.
We have got so much to do.
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