Many photographs do not work. Subsequently, we find out they do not work because there is a difference between what you saw and what your audience sees in the image. Sometimes this comes down to lack of skill in translating an idea, but often it’s more subtle than that: the camera doesn’t see what we see, and we need to be both highly aware of that and how to compensate for it. Yesterday’s photoessay is a good example: it’s no big deal to make a monochrome image, but our eyes only perceive a lack of color under very exceptional circumstances. Yet it’s these differences that make some images stand out, and others not really ‘work’.
I personally find one of the most challenging things to do is make compelling and different images in a situation that is a familiar one: your home city, your usual equipment with nothing particularly special or capable of making a distinctive look (or another way of looking at it is a general purpose tool with a very versatile shooting envelope), challenging weather, and to top it off, conditions that are not ideally conducive for creativity*. These were shot during a private workshop as examples; I have to simultaneously apologise to and thank my student at the time: firstly, I felt I could have made better images with a bit more sleep, but the conditions pushed me to really look for something different. In the end, I think this set fit the bill: I am happy because these are images that I have not only not produced in some form or other before, but images that I never conceptualised because I was not looking in those places either – even though it wasn’t my first time there. Enjoy! MT
*Prolonged lack of sleep from a newborn and a small apartment full of relatives.
Rule number one: there are no rules. A ‘mistake’ may not necessarily be a mistake if it helps convey the message or story or feeling intended by the photographer. I can easily think of multiple examples that go against every scenario described below. That said, for the most part, I’ve found these ‘mistakes’ to hold true. And if you want to achieve something very specific, then you either won’t be reading this article in the first place, or you’ll know when to bend the rules. The general viewing public probably has some preformed opinions of what is right/good, but these are born out of as much ignorance as conditioning by companies trying to sell more software or lenses or something else. There are rational reasons why these opinions may not necessarily be right in the context of fulfilling creative intention.
From an earlier post where I opened the floor to the readers, here are the answers. There were some enjoyable ones in there I really had to think hard about; I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of questions submitted, but decided to answer pretty much everything with the exception of speculative or ‘what should I buy’ posts about equipment. There is no way to answer these meaningfully without understanding the output objectives and skill level of the person wielding it; give a skilled photographer anything and it’s possible to make a compelling image, there is also the recommended gear list, and if it’s not on there, then there’s probably a reason.
We’re nearing the end of the images from the last trip to Tokyo. Today’s images are a continued evolution of the urban theme into something a bit more widespread; an attempt to capture the combined endless scale and whimsy of Tokyo. There are bits you might find surprising and challenging to your preconceptions of Japan – anything with space or trees or emptiness, for instance – but that’s the whole point, isn’t it? It is me giving in to my endless fascination for man-made light, texture and reflection in complementary colours. Enjoy! MT
This series was shot with a Nikon D810, D750, 24/3.5 PCE, 45/2.8P, Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus and Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar and processed with PS Workflow II; you can also travel vicariously to Japan with How To See Ep.2: Tokyo.
Just a little heads up for the Malaysian urban and architectural photographers in the audience today: I’ve been asked by a friend of mine to judge a photography competition run by the World Class Sustainable Cities conference for 2015. The theme is ‘Urban Regeneration Through Smart Partnerships’. There are two categories for >18 years and here, and information on previous conferences here. Good luck! MT
Part two: get creative (continued from part one)
The camera companies and retailers are going to hate me for writing this, because it’s not going to sell any more equipment. If you were hoping for a quick solution that involves a credit card, I’m sorry too – there is no substitute to better photographs other than hard work. But this doesn’t mean it can’t be fun or creatively liberating – after all, isn’t that one of the key reasons we shoot at all?