Photograph the essence not the incidental.

Photograph the essence not the incidental.

Leading a class on photographing blossoms in Boston the other day I encouraged students to reveal the spirit of the thing, not just the physical reality. As Robert Henri says, “Low art is just telling things; as, There is the night. High art gives the feeing of the night. …. be interested not in the incident but in the essence of your subject.

Read More

Ambiguity engages imagination

Charles River Boston

Charles River Boston

Here is an idea for you to try. Rather than showing us everything in the scene, leave something to the viewers imagination. Leave space for us to fill in the blanks, connect the dots, or guess at what is just beyond our visual grasp. This will invite the viewer to linger, look deeply and really savor the experience rather than just recognizing the scene and moving on.

Just as I am always encouraging you to slow down and take your time when creating photos, the same advice holds for viewing images. Take your time. Slow down an participate in the scene using wonder and curiosity. I invite you to try it out with this image. Click on it to view full screen and then just relax your gaze and look beyond the obvious to see the invisible.

Some tips for creating ambiguity: over expose, use weather like fog, snow, or rain, shoot through windows, use reflections, soften your focus. Just be sure your are not creating visual confusion. What you are going for is revealing the subject layer by layer in collaboration with the viewer. Give hints, and nudges but let them find the soul of the image in their own way based on their own life experiences.

Looking Forward Looking Back

nightportraite.jpg

Since it gets dark so early now, I have decided to focus on night photography for a while. I love to seek out existing light at night and see what can be created. You do need fast glass to do a shot like this, that is a lens with capability to open to F 2.8. This allows enough light in to shoot without a tripod. You have to push the ISO up to about 2000 which creates a gritty feel, but I love that.

This image has not be photo shopped. It was taken by a security light on a building in an empty parking lot. I had my subject face me with the light striking just one side of her face. But the right eye was totally in the dark so I had her turn just enough until I could see the catch light in both eyes. Then I took two shots and we were done. I used my Sony Alpha 6000 and my F1.8/50 prime lens.

I like the feeling of the face being half in the light and half in the dark. Feels like the moment we turn from the past to the future. Perfect way to begin the new year. Looking forward to spending more time in the dark while looking toward the light. Happy New Year to You.

Suzanne

ready, set, go dog go

Dogs in Snow

While I am longing for spring, waiting for the first buds and bright colors, there are some among us who know better. They know that today is a day to play in the snow. To romp and run, jump and roll. Ready, set, go dog go. Soon enough the snow covered field with be grassy and green. And guess what, these three will play just the same on that sunny day.  It was a good reminder to me that it is my attitude, not the weather that determines what I make of the day.

To take this photo I set my white balance on 6200k so the snow would not be blue. I used a fast shutter speed 1/700 to catch the action  and then I moved around to all sides of the trio until I had a nice clean background.

I Believe in Beauty

I believe in Beauty. That it can save the world, change a mood, open a heart in an instant.  It lives in the small moments.  I judge beauty only by the the extent to which it makes me feel alive, connected and curious. Beauty is why I create photographs. When beauty calls, I respond with an image.  Life constantly surprises me with the forms of beauty it offers, unexpectedly, continuously, quietly, like secret notes being passed from the world to my soul. These moment enter my heart and live forever.

Read More

Ghost Ship

Ghost Ship

Ghost Ship

Right now I am in the San Francisco area enjoying some spectacular weather. Yesterday we took a day trip to the SF delta and had an inspiring day photographing the unusual landscape full of twisting, turning waterways, bridges and small towns. My memory cards were nearly full, and batteries almost empty.

Just as we were pulling out of the parking lot to head home, this ship appeared on the far side of the river. It must have been there all along, but I did not see it before.  It seemed to glow in the light as day turned to dusk. This was a stop the car moment, no doubt about it.

As suddenly as it had appeared, it was gone. The light changed and the moment passed. The lesson I learned, don't hesitate. When something magical appears before your eyes, believe it is meant for you to capture and share if you can. This is my favorite image of the day. Good thing I had not put my camera away.

It's a mystery.

Charles River Fog Lifting

Charles River Fog Lifting

This Tuesday, when I had so much work to do updating the website, writing new workshop descriptions, following up on critiques of past classes, the last thing I needed to do was spend the morning  roaming around Boston in the fog. But I could not help myself. When I woke up and saw a whole lot of NOTHING out my kitchen window, I knew I had to get out there as soon as possible. I headed out into the fog and wandered until I came to edge of  Charles River. This familiar spot seemed entirely new to me. The fog made the familiar strange and full of possibility.

Once I got my settings right, that is remembered to over expose by 2 stops, (the camera thinks the scene is brighter than it is with fog or snow)  and use manual focus (the camera can't focus on fog). I started to really enjoy what I was seeing and not seeing. There were stories everywhere I looked. So I had to stop, take a step back and ask myself, what story wants to be told today, about this moment this place, by me? What is the mood or feeling I am experiencing. What I love about fog, is the way it does not allow us to see everything clearly. It creates an experience of mystery for me. I hope I have captured that experience in this image for you.

I’m curious… what story do you see?

Wishing You Magical Moments of Beauty

Snow Shower

Snow Shower

This week we had an epic snow storm followed by bitter cold. So it would be wise to stay inside by the fire and sip sweet hot coco. But being photographers, the crisp, clear light and the possibility of something unnamed calls us all to come out. Out to explore, to see something fresh and feel really alive.

As I walked through the dark, silent woods near my childhood home, I suddenly stepped out into a clearing. And in that exact instant the sun broke through the clouds and lit up the scene. Time stood still, the cold did not matter and I felt a kind of excitement and joy flow through my heart. I resisted the temptation to start shooting. I just stood perfectly still, slowed my breath, and relaxed into being and seeing.  The sun began to darken. I sensed the door was closing.  Staying as still as possible I raised my camera and clicked. 

AS I walked home I realized, this is why I teach photography. I simply try to create the possibility that each of you will have more experiences of beauty and magic. It does not matter if you get the exposure right, or if your composition is perfect. What matters is the magic of the moment you fall in love with life.

I'm Curious, Have you ever had an experience like this, where time stood still? Love to hear about it. Suzanne