Friday, March 25, 2011

The Lighthouse Keeper

Two of my favorite photography books are Joe McNaly’s "The Moment It Clicks" and "The Hot Shoe Diaries".

For those of you who don’t know who Joe McNally is he is an internationally acclaimed photographer and photojournalist who from 1994 to 1998 worked as LIFE magazine's staff photographer. He has shot cover stories for Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek, Geo, Fortune, New York, Business Week, LIFE and Men's Journal, among others. Joe is a wealth of experience and knowledge when it comes to photography.

Not only did I learn a lot from Joe I got the idea for these photos while reading "The Hot Shoe Diaries" I came across one image of a lighthouse keeper Joe did for a workshop and I knew of a former lighthouse keeper who was about to retire and I thought it would be a great idea as a retirement portrait. The title of the piece in the book is “Make the SUNRISE”. Only thing I didn’t use a gold reflector as Joe did I used a flash with a ¼ cto gel. I also had the additional problem of an overcast sky which meant I had to adjust the ambient light exposure to keep the sky from blowing out.

Adieu Mr Cantwell

Adieu Mr Cantwell

These books changed me as a photographer, teaching me not to be so “traditional” as far as my exposures go. Years ago I would never consider adding artificial light to anything other than a portrait but a simple change in attitude has opened creative doors and possibilities.

Joe does tend to push product and brand names in his writings. Certainly it would be great to get the gear Joe advertises but in most cases much cheaper options are available. Heck, if you need a gel, a piece of colored plastic, i. e. an old plastic bag might do the job. Good thing if you’re a photographer for the love of it, you’re free to try anything and then maybe you can teach the rest of us something.

Both books are anecdotal and humorous. I really like the fact that Joe does not go into too many technical details, no need to. He continuously stresses having fun with your photography, his insights are expressed playfully and you end up coming away knowing how he created the shot.

This is Gerry Cantwell. Gerry is the sixth generation of Cantwell's to work at and look after Cape Spear Lighthouse's. The old Cape Spear lighthouse is seen here. Over the last number of years Gerry held the position of Supervisor Lightstation Operations for the Newfoundland and Labrador Region of the Canadian Coast Guard in St John's.



My view on lighting these days is if you can get the shot with natural light then get it. If you think you might like some flash fill or flash as main, do it! Do what it takes to get the shot. Free yourself from your past ideas or those others may impose on you.

If you are interested in learning photography or advancing your skill level, I highly recommend these books!

I'm planning to post some of my photography insights each weekend here on my blog. Please drop by for a read and share your experiences.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Power of Art Photography

Writing this blog has become a bit of an eye opener. It has caused me to think about why I do what I do and to evaluate the value of it. I do enjoy so many aspects of photography the creative aspect, the ability to record our environment and capture history. The inspiration I get from other photographers whom I admire. But I still find myself asking; what am I trying to create? Who am I creating for? Have I become a connoisseur of pretty pictures?

Photography can be a medium of considerable significance. Photography can bite, it can be real, it can be personal, it can have great impact. The work of Robert Capa, Steve MeCurry and Frans Lanting comes to mind.

Speaking of impact I came across this video on TED Talk and I was just amazed at the power of photography!

Use art to turn the world inside out

Some people may call this the Power of Art. But I think when it comes to great photography, the photography at hand becomes a monument to our world. No other art can bring us the raw dramatic impact the way photography can. All the same I don’t care to call photography, art. The traditional art of painting in it’s evolution to “Modern Art” has become a medium of flatulence and opulence. Please take the time to watch the video and enjoy The Power of Photography!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Taking it to the Streets

Two summers ago I was making one of my rounds around town admiring one of my
usual jaunts and I struck up a conversation with a gentleman. He was a retired firefighter
who enjoyed photography himself and we talked about photography in general, the local
scenery and street photography. I told him I was thinking about moving out of my
comfort zone and heading downtown to photograph people. He told me he had recently
been at a local credit union office and seen hanging on the walls portraits of people who
where often seen around town 30 or 40 years ago. People like “Buckey King”, a man I
remember seeing there when I was a boy. While I had feelings of nostalgia I also had a
more urgent feeling, after all these people are all gone now. This conversation ignited me
to hit the streets and give it a go. I went away thinking I wish I had taken a portrait of
“Hobo Bill” when he was alive! Now that’s character!

………. As you can see here I also decided to photograph the buskers.

Banjo Blues
Banjo Blues

I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. I would only take a persons portrait if they agreed
and thought most people would say no. But to my surprise, of the dozens of people I
photographed so far only two said no. And I’m certain they did so thinking they wouldn’t
like what they saw. One of these men was selling newspapers on Water Street when I was
a boy 40 years ago and he’s still there.

I’ve got to figure out a way to get this man to agree without pestering him to much. I’ve
explained to him I will only show his portrait if he looks “good”. Telling him that I’ve
taken a page from Stanley Kubrick’s book, how he used to use perspective (a low angle
of view) to “raise the status” of people. I’ve also begun to carry along a portfolio of a
dozen portraits, showing him I am only interested in capturing the human side of people.
I just want to demonstrate to people that we are all so much alike.


This is Joe. I saw him Friday March 11, 2011 and he didn’t look very good.

Not surprisingly there has been a learning curve for me. Street photography is different
from wedding photography and portraiture where I have experience. In those cases the
session is planned, thought-out by both parties. Street photography, or in this case street
portraiture, is spontaneous. When you are moving about looking for people the setting is
constantly changing. You usually only have a few seconds to get the shot, this is a
challenge and a challenge means an opportunity to learn, something I enjoy.

This is a portrait of Steve using flash @ 1/6000 second. Steve is a talented guitarist and
has cd’s published which he often has with him for sale.

Downtown Vibe
Downtown Vibe

The challenge was mostly a preparation issue for me. I had to be ready to add a little flash
if needed. On camera flash, absolutely not. On camera flash is a recipe for mediocre,
poor work. And add to this I might have to use high speed sync flash so I would have to
upgrade my radio flash triggers or go with a cable. This year I will go with manual mode
as I almost always do which means pre-metering. I though about going to aperture
priority mode but I don’t want the camera “taking over the exposure”, I want compete
control. Challenges and an opportunity to learn, why I love photography.

The Accordionist
The Accordionist

If I take their portrait I usually buy them a sandwich and an orange juice. It it’s a busker
I’ll give them a few bucks. If you are out and about please be supportive, a little act of
kindness can mean so much.

I’m looking forward to hitting the streets this summer now that I’ve learned so much and
am better prepared.

I am hoping to update my blog every weekend. If you like what you see here I hope to
have new post available every Sunday evening. Warmest regards and thanks for dropping