A Fresh Perspective
Photography is more than just a vehicle for capturing the world around me; it provides me with a palette and a set of brushes, with which I paint not only what I see, but also look to express the emotions that are evoked by the scene in front of me in that moment.
Growing up in the Netherlands exposed me to a wide cross-section of visual arts that laid the foundation of my photographic view of all that surrounds me. Early influences were the Dutch Masters of the 17th century, to whom I was introduced by my grandfather during museum explorations; favorites among them are the scenes of quotidian life depicted by Jan Steen and Frans Hals and the vivid landscapes of Jacob van Ruisdael.
My classical high school education was supplemented by the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum, where I spent many a lunch hour exploring its great collection. Here I was introduced to surrealism with a particular love for the approach taken by Salvador Dali; Dali also rekindled my appreciation for the work of Hieronymus Bosch, who often showed the folly of us mortals.
My approach to any photographic subject is to look for understanding first; in this I look to establish either a connection between the viewer and the subject or capture the connection of the subject with its surroundings. The captured image then aims to portray this connection from a perspective that is part of my personal interpretation.
This interpretation is often a form of externalized introspection, which may alternately display the connection of isolated beings and items with their environment or highlight the whimsy of the profound world, in which we find ourselves. The universe is full of connections, many of which are waiting to be discovered; part of my journey as a photographer is to document these connections.
Any assignment, be it an event, a product shoot or a portrait session is always approached through communication with the client; this is where the first connection is established. Ideas are exchanged and a collaborative plan of action forms, ultimately resulting in a set of images that aim to exceed the expectations of each client.
And, lest we forget, it is important to have fun while practicing the serious business of photography!
A couple of year’s ago, my wife and I visited Scotland for an all too short 12 days. It was a wonderful vacation that afforded us many great things to see and experience. One of these locales is in the next couple of photos…
As we were leaving the Isle of Skye toward Inverness, it was recommended that we take a detour to see Plockton. This picturesque town, that looks to belong in a much more temperate zone than the highlands of Scotland.
Of course, it helped that the weather was absolutely perfect for the end of May, which gave us beautiful blue skies.
Plockton is very much a tourist attraction, because of its beauty and palm trees; it was used as the backdrop for the BBC Scotland series Hamish Macbeth, about a local police constable in the fictional town of Lochdubh.
As you can tell from these photos, the detour was well worth it.
Both of these shots were taken with a Canon EOS 5D MkIII and 24-105mm f/4L lens. I used the in-camera HDR processing capability for each of these shots. They were both taken at f/14 and 1/500 second at 400 ISO.
As last Friday’s mystery slide got a very positive response, I figured that I’d post another one from quite a while ago. This time, the slide didn’t have the answer marked on it, as it just said “#2”, but I think some smart readers can tell me a little about the following image:
This image is another slide scan from the collection of slides that I received from my father-in-law. Clearly, his father did a bit of traveling, as there are airplanes in the image.
This location has some interesting features, such as the fish pond and the pagoda and looks rather peaceful.
I am looking forward to what you can tell me about this location and its history.
A lot of my dog photography has been of dogs in action and to this day, a lot of people still know me for this part of my work. Portraits are a bit rarer in my oeuvre, so here’s one that I enjoy…
The dog in this photo is our youngest Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Dora aka Bean. Her full name is White Raven “Salute of Innocence”, Dorothea Lange. Dora is now almost 3 years old and has quite a sense of humor, which is not a bad thing in a cute dog.
She stays busy with duck and sheep herding and agility, which means that she has something on her schedule most every weekend.
It is not coincidental that this little love shares her name with my favorite photographer. As I got to pick her registered name, “Salute of Innocence” was an easy choice, as it is one of Dorothea Lange’s most poignant images of Japanese American children saluting the flag during the pledge of allegiance.
This image is from Dorothea Lange’s time photographing Japanese Americans in internment camps in 1942; a dark period in American history that we should ensure to never repeat.
“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fullfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life."
- Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte
Travel allows us to get to interesting places, which can provide us with a sense of wonder about nature, the universe or mankind…
This week’s Wednesday Wonderment mixes a little bit of all these elements. This image comes from a trip to the Isle of Mull off the west coast of Scotland. Mull is a wonderful place to vacation, where we spent a couple of great days.
In my research, I had found out about a beautiful walk that would lead us to a circle of stones known as the Lochbuie stones. Originally, this stone circle was comprised of 9 stones, and, even though it is no longer complete, there is still palpable energy running through the lines created within this site.
The walk over took us along the shore and then in-land through some marshy land toward the stones. Notable was that there was a second site of power along the route, which I didn’t find indicated anywhere, but could feel with surprising strength. Scotland is replete with locations that radiate power from a variety of sources, which enhances the experience of the landscape and great people to an amazing level.
The photo shows the Lochbuie Stone Circle with Ben Buie in the distance; the weather was not what one expects from Scotland at all times.
I took this image with a Canon EOS 5D MkIII with a 24-105mm f/4L lens. Shutter speed was at 1/125 second at f/18 at 400 ISO.
In this past Sunday’s Shot of the Week blog post, I floated the idea of putting together a post or two on the technical elements that go into creating an image along the lines of ‘Searching for Answers‘.
The first step in the process should focus on visualizing the image that you are trying to create.
When I walked into this mansion’s classically adorned library, it was rather brightly lit through the magnificent windows off to the left in this image. After taking a look around there were a couple of items that stood out to me about this scene:
This gave me a couple of mental and visual cues to start the process of putting together a storyline for the image.
A Story for the Image
As this type of image is all about telling a story, it is critical to start with the story. Having a library full of books, the first thing that came to my mind was that the books might contain answers to questions that may have troubled someone in their life. What if they never had access to these books during their lifetime? Could they come to visit the library as an ethereal presence, so that they could search for answers to those questions?
As you can tell, the imagination quickly adds some details to put context together for the shoot. A quick check of the available wardrobe confirmed that we had a flowing red dress available, so that the color red could be used as a thematic cue.
Planning the Shoot
When creating a composite image, the most important thing is to have a plan. Ideally, you shoot all the components for the image at the same time, so that lighting is consistent, which will make the final image much more believable.
At the very least, create a mental checklist that ensures all the bases are covered to put the final image together in post processing, particularly when shooting a square composition. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Make sure that you shoot extra width and height for the image; other than the obvious reason, you may decide later to adjust the exact positioning of your subject
Make sure that you have a complete base image for the entire scene (you can see the central portion of the base image above)
Give yourself options by playing with some of the elements in the shot, such as the curtains or books, even when you’re not sure you will need them; you might end up throwing some shots away, or end up using one of them in a way you just didn’t expect.
Although there are many ways that good shots can be achieved, here are a couple of equipment notes that will make the process a little easier:
Always have your camera on a tripod; if you have a tripod that allows for smooth rotation that is ideal for aligning for additional width to your shot.
A fixed focal length, prime lens is ideal, but a zoom lens is workable.
A remote trigger for your camera makes your shoot a lot easier (see ‘Positioning’ image)
Use manual settings on your camera, including manual focus.
Shooting the Key Element(s)
The most important element of this image is the ethereal presence floating in front of the bookshelves, in search of answers in the many volumes stored there. The next image gives away some of the magic, as you see the model, Steph, standing on a ladder rather than being suspended through unseen forces of levitation.
Keen observers will also note that that is my thumb holding her dress in a more floating position. Even keener observers might see that her head position doesn’t match that of the image at the beginning of this post; you are correct, as I used her upper body from one of the other images.
Next week, we’ll go over the details and the process of editing in your favorite image manipulation program, which is not quite as difficult, as you might think. I’ll leave you with some of the other shots that went into creating the resultant image, as a bit of a behind the scenes view.