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Composition can make an interesting subject bland or make an ordinary subject appear beautiful. In this course, photographer and author Ben Long explores the concepts of composition, from basics such as the rule of thirds to more advanced topics such as the way the eye travels through a photo.
The course addresses how the camera differs from the eye and introduces composition fundamentals, such as balance and point of view. Ben also examines the importance of geometry, light, and color in composition, and looks at how composition can be improved with a variety of post-production techniques. Interspersed throughout the course are workshop sessions that capture the creative energy of a group of photography students; shooting assignments and exercises; and analyses of the work of photographers Paul Taggart and Connie Imboden.
Abe Lopez: My name is Abe Lopez, and I'm a middle school art teacher, and this is my Abe: wife Olivia. Olivia: And I teach high school art. Abe And we've been making art together since college and along with teaching art, we also continue to make art, and going to workshops has been very helpful to us in keeping up with what's current in the art world, and also being able to work with other artists who have perfected their craft and continue to work and developing new ideas.
So we've been very blessed to be here with Connie and Ben Long in this workshop. Some of the ideas that they have given us were learning how to see things in a new way, familiar sites that we're with. So when we look at our familiar surroundings, you know, how can you see that differently? And being that we're working in photography, being able to manipulate light and to look at light has been very important. So, some of the challenges that she gave us was how do you take a portrait of light and not what light does, but what light is.
So that's been a very fun challenge for us to tackle. And then she also talked to us about the depth and relationships between items in a foreground as opposed to items in the background and how they relate to each other and how they communicate with each other to make a strong image. So, that's been two of our challenges that we've had this year, which is being great to see, because as we are challenged as teachers, we can take those same ideas back into a classroom and relate some of those same challenges back to our students and hopefully they'll grow as well with some of the work that they've done.
Olivia: One of the things I discovered this weekend was the fact that I know the composition. I know how to paint. I'm a painter. Now only an art teacher, I'm a professional painter, and I had to really look at the objects and subject matter a little bit differently. It really challenged me mentally. I felt exhausted at the end of the day. It was like, okay, did I do right? Did I even meet the challenge? What was the assignment again? So, it really made me think as an artist and a photographer. I had to think about lines, composition, contrast, but I also had to think what was the most important thing of this specific assignment she gave us.
For example, the first one was about light. I don't even think I captured light. I captured shadows. The second one was about playing with the foreground and the background and I discovered that that was very difficult to do, because I thought it will just happen, you know, just go out there look, and voila, it happened. But it didn't. So I had to do some planning, do some adjustment in my thinking. So, it left me exhausted. But I was pleased with the end results, because I thought outside the box.
It wasn't ordinary and I'm not a perfectionist, but when I do my work, I intend it to be good. It just can't be mediocre. Abe: And there were two phrases that they continued to say over and over again. I think they were very, very important. One of them was simplifying your images. When you immediately or initially see an image of an idea or thought that's captivating, you see something that sparks your interest, but when you continue to shoot it and you hone in on the closer images and the essence of what it is and simplifying the forms, all of a sudden it begins to take on a different connotation.
So simplifying the forms, making the images more complete, but still being able to tell the story was very important. And the other thing that they talked about was just working your shot. Shooting a hundred shots of the same image from different angles, different views, different formats using zooming in, zooming out to bring the foreground in and out, and just really talked to us about how do you development an idea, how do you work in image or a scene or light, and that was very helpful to our work and what we were able to do.
Olivia: Yes. And one of the things that we can take back to our students is maybe a deeper understanding that it's just not about composition; it's about thinking outside the box. Looking at objects and subject matter a little bit differently. Abe: And about just how you see the world, because we know that a tree is a tree and a building is a building and light is light, but how do you take an image or capture an image and let it speak for itself in a different way. That's the most challenging thing that we were able to really try to come across with and work. Being that my wife and I are both painters, you can manipulate paint and layers and the way the paint goes on, but when you try to take an image and try to capture something that speaks for itself without a whole lot manipulation, the integrity of photography, that was the best challenge for us that we've really enjoyed doing.
Olivia: I think it gave me satisfaction to know that I didn't have to go and do a lot of adjustments. I could just take the photograph and it was ready. Abe: So, can we show some of the photographs that we've done? These photographs that we took were some of the images and examples that we took on light and how we captured light, and two of my favorite ones were these two right here. This one was the reflection of a part of a vehicle on the road, and I just loved the way the light danced across this diagonal line coming this direction.
So seeing two cars parked side by side is something that we normally saw, but as I looked closer and saw the way the light danced on the asphalt across this diagonal line, it really captured my eye. Again, I took probably about sixty shots of this from the back side and the front side and just learning to see how the light spoke to me. The way I was able to capture this was really important. Ben Long also talked to me about the aperture and things that could be more in focus closer to us.
So, he gave us a little bit critique that was helpful about making this area little bit more focused. Shooting the aperture and focusing on the foreground, middle ground, and background, and the pulling those images together and trying to figure out which one worked the best and which one could be modified to be a finished item. So that was really helpful. Olivia: I think one of my favorites wasn't even in the assignment. It was the first day. I saw colors and I like the way the colors were playing off each other. But I think I met the criteria with the egg and the feet. This is the one where the foreground and the background play with each other, and this one had more to do with I guess the same thing, that it looks more like the light assignment.
And this one is just my favorite. I love it because it's very pleasing. I put the apples in the middle of the staircase and I just liked the composition. Abe: This one that she did, this one is one my favorite ones, because an egg is so delicate and then the way this was like it's floating away from the edge, not forming a harsh shadow was a great idea to put on there, and she captured that just by laying it on glass and photographing it straight down where it did not have the reflection, which really worked out well. I thought she did a good job with that particular image. But we've been very grateful to work with Connie Imboden and Ben Long.
They've been both fantastic with their critiques and their thoughts on our work and just being very helpful with their ideas that they were able to share with us. So, we've been thankful for that.
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