The fourth and final part of this feature on well-known photography quotes…
“A good photograph is knowing where to stand”– Ansel Adams (Landscape photographer)
Another thought provoking quote from Adams and this one points at the art of composition. Having a great subject and light for that matter too, is no good if you don’t know how to use it within the frame of the picture to maximum effect. Even with a glorious landscape view in front of you, standing in the right place to capture it, can be the difference between a good picture and an amazing one. A landscape image should be divided into foreground, midground and background and each is used to take the viewer on a ‘journey’ through the image. The composition has to be built up and the main elements exploited to the best of their potential. Therefore, your viewpoint needs to be considered and the way you use the landscape to your advantage is key. Don’t rush this process, but instead contemplate all possibilities. Usually, only one will be the ideal choice for the location, so choose it well.
“A great photo is about depth of feeling, not depth of field”.- Peter Adams (landscape photographer)
Adams’ words resonate again, like those of Arnold Newman and sing the importance of putting feeling ahead of technique, though of course, technique cannot be ignored. This is the third quote that touches on the element of connection when taking a picture, so the importance of its input and the fact that the greatest photographers all feel that this is a fundamental element, shouldn’t be ignored. You therefore need to decide what you are trying to say about the view or subject. The viewer needs to understand what you felt when you were stood there pressing the shutter and what inspired you to do so. They also need to understand your own vision of the scene and where it would differ from another photographers interpretation. You are putting your own stamp on a subject or place when you take the picture and this should and will, be different from another photographers own view. If you don’t put feeling into the image, there is no feeling for the viewer to interpret. A great view still needs your own input, so think carefully about the depth of feeling in the image, as well as the amount of depth of field.
“The simplest pictures are the hardest to get”. – Neil Leifer (Photographer shooting for Time Magazine)
Views and great vistas can be quite complicated in their arrangements. Built of many layers, there’s often a lot of the world crammed into a small space and this can sometimes be overwhelming and confusing.
Therefore, simplifying a view is never easy therefore. Finding those unique views where certain elements are extracted and presented on their own as a new view, is a technique that needs to be learnt. Presented with a basic and simple subject is not always a case of shooting away and hoping for the best. You need to exploit the potential of the subject, using the simplicity of it to the best effect and show the viewer something they may not have noticed themselves. And there is the key. Seeing something within the scene that others miss. When captured, it can be glaringly obvious, but within the wider picture, it may be hidden and easily missed.
Simple subjects can come across as boring and disengaging however and so they need your input to extract the potential of the subject. In this way, a simple picture will take more work to keep it simple, yet effective and with the impact of a more involved scene.
“Sharpness is a bourgeois concept”. – Henri Cartier Bresson (Photojournalist)
We buy the best cameras we can and build up a collection of the finest glass we can afford. We take our pictures with the camera on a tripod and use whatever technique, from mirror lock-up to fast shutter speeds, to get our images pin-sharp and our subjects frozen in a moment of time. All this makes for great images, but at times, they may lack a certain evocative quality. Subject blur or selective focus can add an emotive sentiment to a scene, often bringing life to the image in a way that a prefect, pin-sharp image simply cannot match.
Its all about experimentation. Using a slow shutter speed for effect, selective focusing to isolate a subject, or even slight camera shake to add drama to an image, are all about creativity, but need to compliment the subject in hand. ICM (intentional camera movement) is a technique that is either loved or hated, but it adds something new and in small doses can enhance a portfolio. The same with subject movement. Too much and it becomes repetitive, but used sparingly, it can add an extra dimension to a body of work, giving the subject a fresh and exciting look and feel and therefore shouldn’t be ignored as a concept suitable for photography.