How do you find a good image once you've filled your car? This review will inspire you to look objectively at your work.
- Last week on the Practicing Photographer, I introduced you to something that can be an exercise, but that I also think is an everyday discipline. The idea that you should, anytime you go out to shoot aim to fill your card. Aim to fill the media card in your camera. Now I went out with a stupidly large media card and so to fill it, I would have had to have shot 1,100 images, which I didn't do. And, it's often going to be like that. We're carrying around big cards with us, most of us, these days. You're not always going to fill your card, but you should aim to get as many images as you possibly can.
Even on a short shoot, you should aim to come back with hundreds of images. I gave a lot of reasons for why this is a valuable way to think, last week when I was shooting, now I want to look at the images because I think that's going to reiterate some of what I said last week and reveal somethings to me about how I'm shooting and I think you'll see that this is a really valuable thing, to work into your general photographic process. Normally, I would be terrified to just take a camera out and say, hey, or take a card out and say, "Hey, let's look at all the images." Oddly, I'm curiously relaxed right now and I think it's because this idea of look I'm just shooting, it's not that quantity equals quality but I do understand it's heightened for me that shooting is a process, that it's not about only grabbing great images, it's about seeing.
And so, I'm not so worried about showing these to you because I think I was seeing. In that regard, this process was a success. Here's the first image that I shot. I actually shot it in color, for some reason in the process of getting the slide show ready, I converted it to black and white. This is not a great picture, but I think it's a success for where I was at. I had just stepped out of the car. I had just started up the camera and what struck me was, I just liked the black and white on either side. I like the white truck. I like this line bisecting it and I took the picture. I knew at the time that this was not a great image.
That this was not going to be anything I'm going to keep and I will delete this image, but it got me seeing in the frame. And so, to step right out of the car and go click, oh right, I'm taking pictures. That's what this is about now, I'm looking for these rectangles, I'm looking for light and shadow. It's just a great way to kick off your eyes. Here's more just texture. I'm just seeing things, I'm getting into the habit of framing shots and taking pictures. These are not my shoes. These are Heather, our producer's, and something struck me about the black shoes on the white stripe where she happened to be standing.
Again, this is not a picture I'm going to take, but here I'm just right out of the car and already I'm in a space of going, what's capturing my eye? What am I seeing? Where's something that might be a good picture? I'm getting into the zone I need to be in to take pictures and that is to simply be open to what's going on around me and to try and hear impulses. Here's a shot, I've got a few of these here of Jacob and Matt. Bear in mind that while I was shooting last week, I was being shot, so there was a crew following me around. I like having these shots for myself. I will keep these, these snapshots of my experience here during the shoot.
But this was also a great moment because I was confronting a backlight situation, so it's putting my head into right, I'm engaged in this technical process here. I need to start thinking about exposure. This is all before I really set out to do anything. I'm really warmed up here. The first thing I see is this shadow on the wall and that's what caught my eye here, and so I worked it. I shot a few different angles. I realized, well I don't have a long enough lens to really get this shadow, but now I'm being, I'm interested in all these vertical lines, so I'm shooting vertical lines. That's all this is, all of these photos are garbage as far as I'm concerned, and that's okay, I was seeing stuff.
Then next to the building I saw this. I was really taken by this line on the ground going in the distance and so I worked that a bit. I tried playing with this, whatever that is, manhole cover. Then I moved forward to get it out of the frame. I moved forward some more. I liked the arrangement of these air conditioning units or whatever they are up above. And, I tried some different focal lengths. What I'm playing with here is stretching the depth in the frame and seeing what I like. I actually like some of these. I ended up then turning around and shooting backlit, and then ended up with an actual edited black and white version.
Because this was all about geometry and tone I decided this was a black and white image, that's most often how I go. But, this isn't a great picture, but for an exercise I'm actually kind of please with this, and I'm seeing stuff. Then I turned round in the backlight and saw this bottle here. It's a piece of garbage lying in some dead twigs. This is absolutely nothing I would normally shoot, but boy, I need to get pictures. I was aiming to have 200 pictures and so I needed to shoot something so I got down on the ground and started shooting this bottle. This is an image I never would have taken and I'm glad that I did, not because I'm going to frame this and hang it on the wall, but because in the process of editing it I realized there's an interesting thing happening here.
All of these lines are receding into the distance right here where it's getting much brighter. That could be something interesting to play with in a different location. Part of what I'm doing here, is learning things that interest me and I'm just socking those away in the back of my head. There are things I want to look for in the future, receding lines into brightness, that could be an interesting effect if I found the right subject matter. This is down low, just playing with this texture. Seeing what I could do. This is great practice in just looking in different ways, just getting my eye open, trying different things.
This is a shot I absolutely would not have taken. But once I looked through the viewfinder I realized, this space here between the bricks and the wood, I hadn't noticed it when I was standing there and it really caught my eye once I was looking through the viewfinder, that's the magic of the viewfinder, it frames the world, it limits the world, and then you start seeing relationships that you might not normally see. Again, perfectly reasonable practice image that I would not normally have shot. I tried then some more from below, got interested in the wood texture and played with that. A nice texture study, ultimately too busy, but it's practice, I got to practice editing this kind of texture.
I got to practice playing with the tone of the red bricks over here. Figuring out if they work lighter or darker, that kind of practice influences my black and white pre-visualization when I'm out in the world. I have more experience with toning that color. That gives me more ideas how I might tone it, when I'm out walking around. I very often am attracted to these deep perspective shots, so when I saw this cord stretching up to the building, I started playing with it. Came to this shot and goosed the color some and thought this is interesting, but ultimately decided that maybe it was more interesting as a black and white and cropped to a square.
I intentionally shot this shallow depth of field. This was another good technical exercise, because I did try some deep depth of field and shallow depth of field experiments, and I kind of like this image. Now, notice these are all, so far I haven't left that site where I had originally seen the shadow of the telephone poll and that was, 50 yards from the car. I've shot a lot of images without having moved very far yet at all. Went and walked across the street, saw this pile of tires, and they struck me because I thought, here's this interesting black thing in the middle of this empty white kind of void space, that might be interesting.
It wasn't. But I tried it anyway. I shot it anyway. Then I did something that I never would have done. I looked down in the tires and sure enough there at the bottom was the Michelin Man, which doesn't make a good picture, but it really kind of made my afternoon to know that the Michelin Man was living in the bottom of a pile of old tires. Something is going on here with this exercise. I'm not just getting good practice and maybe some good photos. I'm actually seeing this kind of boring industrial environment that I'm walking around.
I'm looking into and finding these things that are kind of putting a grin on my face. I was lifting the camera to my eye. I had the viewfinder on, on the back of the camera and I noticed that it was kind of interesting that this pole was impaling my shadow, so I played with that for a while and came up with this kind of high key thing that isn't a picture that I care about, but it's now introduced me to the idea of objects interacting with shadows. That could be something interesting to explore in the future.
The repetition of the poles caught my eye. I worked at it, didn't turn into anything. I thought this reflection might be something, it didn't turn into anything. What's important is I shot it anyway. You might say, "Well, I'm experienced, "I can tell when I look through the viewfinder "that it's not going to turn into anything. "Can't you tell?" To which I would answer, yeah, most of the time, but not always. Take the shot anyway, it's free, it doesn't cost anything. "Well, it's going to complicate my post-production "and blah, blah, blah, blah." You never know, you can't always judge it while you're there looking through the frame. I had a different perspective on these images while I'm here, also there's kind of a meta thing that I'm going to get when I look at the entire, when I look at my entire shoot, and we'll get to that in a minute.
Then, I got struck by this, the repeating pattern, but because it's backlit, I really, really like the luminesce off the top of these parking blocks and I thought that that could turn into something in post-production. I tried positioning 'em in a couple of different places. I ended up with this image and went black and white and I like that picture. Then, there's this one. I just saw this rail and thought, it's splitting the frame, in black and white I can really create a white versus black thing over here. This could use some more gray tones, I would process this further before I printed it to get it a little less monotone.
This did not work out the way that I wanted. When I originally saw this image, I was up higher on a hill and the skyline just looked like it was rising up out of this kind of jungle. It was a very strange, kind of Planet of the Apes vibe or something. But, it was full of telephone wires, so I walked down to get rid of the telephone wires and it just, it didn't work. Here, I was very struck by the light, light, dark patterns coming through the fence on this stuff. I don't really care for any of these, but it was still an interesting study of what this light looks like.
Again, just interesting texture repetition. None of these work but I shot 'em. I saw my reflection in a bumper of a truck and so played with that for a while. These garage doors with this door in the middle and this red fence caught my eye. I was having to stand up against another building, so it took me a while to figure out how to get things arranged properly, but in the end, I zeroed in on it and came up with this which is actually a nice arrangement of forms.
If you have to shoot a parking lot ever, this isn't a bad way to do it. I don't know how many people get parking lot assignments. I was taken by the shadow of this telephone pole. That didn't turn into anything. The backlighting on these parking meters caught my eye, so I went there, knowing at the time that this was going to be a black and white shot. That's when I thought, oh, if what caught my eye is the backlight in the plastic casings, I ought to get in close to those plastic casings. That's when I reversed the lens and starting shooting. I'm locked into super shallow depth of field.
I was worried about my focus so that's when I started bursting, which is a great way of cheating your photo count there, I easily got 50 shots out of this. This is the one that I processed. I actually kind of like this picture. The rest of these are some interesting texture that if it wasn't 400 degrees outside, I might have played around with some more, because there might be an interesting play of light and texture in there somewhere. Wow, I really cheated that didn't I? Here's the crew. This is their potential band photo, if they ever start a band.
The procession of car fronts receding into the distance, I found compelling. It doesn't really turn into anything, but again, I was at least seeing, I was looking at things. I was trying things. Wow, I took a picture of some gravel. Well, no, what I was thinking there is, there's actually some composition going on here. I'm going to cling to that desperately. I like this tone versus this tone, with this little weighty thing up here in the corner, and I worked that a little bit, when into black and white.
It doesn't really work but it's still a good composition exercise. It's still me trying to figure out how to arrange things and that's what this is. I've got the line in this curb leading into the frame. I like this thing adding some geometric complexity here. Everything's receding and pointing to this point down here including this street sign. It would great if there were like a supermodel standing right there. It's not really leading anywhere, but still. I'm practicing with arranging things. I'm practicing with leading lines and form, and then ultimately with tone and texture and conversion.
There are a lot of images here. Most of them that I would not have shot if I were not doing this exercise, that I'm actually glad I did shoot. This is one that I know I would have shot. I would have probably come back from this shoot with three photos total. This would have been one of them. This is one that I think I will keep. I just like the light, dark balance and I knew that the building would cool looking in black and white. And that's it. I don't know how many that was. 164 pictures, so obviously some of these are duplicates because they're my processed images that were converted to black and white.
I probably got 150 total shots in an hour, and yes there was this run here in the middle that really boosted my score there because I was shooting in burst mode, but something is very interesting when I go back and look at these images. First I want to say, yeah, I absolutely would not have shot any of these manhole cover images, any of these, any of these. I definitely would not have shot these. But shooting these, I can see the progression here. Shooting these lousy shadow pictures, led me around the corner of the building to here, which got me this image, which I actually kind of like and shooting that, led me on through these that I'm not crazy about, but ultimately got me to this image, which I like.
This exercise got me shooting. It made me look. It made me see. It made me see this image, which I never would have seen otherwise. This isn't going in a portfolio or anything, but I'm still glad to have it and I still think it was a good exercise. But I think what's really interesting when you go through these and look at them, check this out. Do you see a theme going here? I did not know that I was doing this while I was out there. I did not know that I was shooting this same composition over and over in different places. So, you may go, wow you're in a rut, and I might be, but I think instead that what I'm doing is practicing, and what I'm practicing is the photographic equivalent of a lick that a musician would practice, a saxophone payer, guitar player, whatever.
They practice particular little snatches of melody. I'm practicing particular compositional ideas. I might get bored with this at some point. I might feel like this is now, I'm stuck. I'm only seeing things the same way. That's fine, then I will consciously try to shoot things another way, but I think what's going on, is I'm practicing this. I'm learning to see this particular compositional arrangement and total play, in a lot of different ways. I'll do that until I'm tired of it, and then it's going to stuck away in my compositional tool kit and maybe I'll start practicing another lick, and just the way a musician improvises licks into a solo.
If you got enough of these little things stashed in your compositional brain, they're going to come in real handy when you arrive at a complex scene that you don't know what to do with. You're going to have structures that you can apply, already in your head. This is not just an exercise you can do, and I'm not saying that quantity inherently means quality. But I think this practice every day when you got out shooting, turns off your editor as I mentioned last week, and leads you to things you wouldn't normally see, both to shoot and to just experience and ultimately gives you a very, very different way of looking at and understanding your own photographic eye.
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