Craig Taylor’s Something from Nothing submission shows us how to do more with less!
When I want to challenge myself creatively, I’ll head to the dollar store and with a limit of $10 I gather interesting things with the hopes of making some cool images.
For “Deep Blue Something” I found a rubber ball with a dolphin in it and then I found a cheap wine glass and decided I should put the ball in it. To suspend it? I used a couple of bottles of hand sanitizer. Throw in a piece of white poster board and I think the total was about 9 dollars. The blue actually comes largely from shooting with tungsten white balance.
For “Hot Wheels” I had the toy car at home. I happened to find this adhesive remover called Goof-Off and a very cheap mirror (the frame was falling off before I even got out of the store) and with fire extinguisher near-by I created my shot.
“Lyrical Destruction” was a lot of fun and it actually didn’t require me to purchase anything. The CD was a dud so it was a perfect candidate to abuse. I scratched it with scissors and banged the heck out of it with a hammer. I put a few drops of grenadine on it and when I viewed it with a circular polarizer all sorts of weird colors came out.
I wouldn’t call “Fly-Eye” art but its definitely more interesting than a straight shot of the table cloth I was looking at. I found a fly-eye gizmo in the toy section of the dollar store and it works pretty well with my iPhone.
We are proud to present our latest eBook series on Mastering Composition and Visual Design. We start off the series with two titles; Learning to See Workbook and Compositions Basics. So much of the information on photography is about the technical stuff like gear and camera settings. Sure that stuff is important; we all need to know how to use our tools. But little attention is paid to the foundations of photography as an art form as a basis for personal expression. Too many photographers are trapped in their development as artists because they can’t see beyond the obvious — they can’t ‘see’. The Learning to See Workbook is about breaking down the barriers in the way of true creative expression. The Composition Basics eBook simplifies visual design down to the foundation of tone and colour. All other compositional tools we use are based on these two building blocks. Composition Basics is a big book designed to guide you through organizing your picture space to tell more compelling stories with your images. We recommend buying both eBooks because they compliment each other well. We so think you need both books that we offer them bundled together for a great price! If you like our eBooks let others know. We love making them and want to be able to offer more so your support now will ensure new titles in the future.
My husband and I were on a quick turn around trip with a one night stay in a hotel. When we arrived at the hotel, my husband set off to do some errands. I figured this would be the only quiet shooting time I would get on the entire weekend (and I was right) so out came my camera. These are a few of the shots that I came up with.
Well, I saw every spot there was to see in my bathroom but had to respond to the challenge of making something out of nothing. I can’t take a picture of the entire bathroom because it is too small but you can see much of it in the first shot. Then I explored different angles and close-ups and, despite having a small space, I found the objects or close-ups intriguing, especially with the light on them. And thanks to you, my bathroom is now the cleanest room in my home!
So it’s the New Year and by now you’ve packed up your Christmas loot, put away your plastic Christmas tree and trooped back to work. We’re back at work after some time off this December, but I’m ashamed to report that our Christmas tree is still standing in our living room (we’re getting to that today, I swear!) New this year for us is the big photography seminar this coming March 15-17, 2013. We’ve convinced humanitarian photographer and globetrotting author David duChemin that, yes, it is safe to leave his warm house in Vancouver to visit the mountains in springtime in Alberta…. (cue evil laughter: “mwah ha ha ha!”) So David will be joining us at Persistent Vision: The Pursuit of Story and Inspiration this March held in the lovely little hamlet of Bragg Creek, at the base of the Canadian Rockies.
At the full day seminar on Saturday, March 16, participants will be regaled with David’s exploits and adventures from his travels around the world, and both David and Darwin and I will talk about what it takes to make a living at photography in today’s age. As well, Darwin and I will be teaching how you can ‘see’ the art in the everyday details around you so that, when you do head out on that once-in-a-lifetime trip, you’ll return with unique and personal imagery.
Which brings me to the point of this post. While we are discussing creating art with your camera at the Saturday seminar, we’re not going to be covering how to capture, edit and process your images to keep that storytelling aspect. Make no mistake: strong photographs are created when we ‘see’ the story, capture the story by selecting the correct camera settings and gear and then preserve or enhance that story in the digital darkroom.
Well, we have two special talks associated with Persistent Vision we want you to know about. The first one takes place in Calgary on January 19 from 1 to 4 PM and is called The Art of Storytelling (open to all) and covers techniques we use in the field to capture evocative stories. There will be great prizes at the event including a Sigma Lens and a pass to the Persistent Vision seminar!
The second event to be held here in Cochrane on January 21 is a special oopoomoo Talk, just for those people who have registered for the Persistent Vision seminar. We spill the beans on how we process our images to preserve the heart of a story in your images. And the price is only $5! Wow! As many of you know, we don’t really do talks on how to process your images or how to use Lightroom, Photoshop, Aperture etc. (there are lots of great tutorials out there already) but we can share how your processing choices affect the look, feel and story of your final image. This talk is NOT another ‘how to use’ Lightroom or Photoshop talk; we’re going to show you how we use our software and plug-ins to enhance mood and tell stronger stories. Learn more about this talk at Enhancing Story and Mood in the Digital Darkroom
Here’s a couple of examples of what I mean.
Interested? You can read more about the talk here. Remember, this talk is only open to participants who have registered for the Persistent Vision seminar by January 21, the date of this talk (so if you’re sitting on the fence, maybe this will tip you over to our side!) Now, on to that Christmas tree….
This is my last instalment from my ‘creative’ adventure taking only a 50mm lens on the week-long Fall in the Canadian Rockies Photo Tour. For those who wanted to see my early struggles with this exercise, here are the links for day 1 and day 2. By day 3 and day 4 I was starting to get the groove of the lens! On Day 5 our group worked the Icefields Parkway from Rampart Ponds to the Columbia Icefield returning along the Parkway to do sunset along Highway 11 at Whirlpool Point. Day 6 was the last day of the tour and was a half day only starting with sunrise along the Kootenay Plains and ending with a long visit to Mistaya Canyon in Banff National Park. On the previous days I ended up with about 20 keepers per day. From the last day and a half I ended up with only 23 images I felt were worth keeping. Below are 13 from the last days of the tour with a few notes in the image captions.
In the end, would I do an exercise like again? You bet! Next time maybe it will just be my 85mm lens, or maybe just a fish-eye lens. Who knows? Having and using just one lens helps you to see by reducing your choices. You get more creative with what you have! Less is more. And my back loved it!
Ian McGillvrey also took us up on the Something from Nothing challenge and spent an hour and a half mining gifts from his kitchen. None of Ian’s photos rely on post-processing tricks; these are all in-camera JPEG captures! We think there are some stunners that Ian captured from scenes most of us would pass over. Congratulations Ian on photos well seen!
In keeping with the idea of challenging myself to just creatively see images and not rely on processing or other tricks, I limited myself to working with the elements in the room as they sat and with the light available to me. These images are JPEGS straight out of the camera (only in-camera processing, i.e. monochrome or vivid picture style were used) and all images were shot handheld.Here’s the overall scene, my kitchen island:
Right away I went to the sink… not sure why, maybe just following Darwin’s lead? But as I did, I noticed a cool reflection happening on the backsplash from the setting sun coming in the front windows.
Getting closer (nearly inside the sink!) I was able to isolate this. I used a wide aperture (f 2.8 on my 24-70) to keep the focus on the reflection and let the rest fade away. Not too bad for just getting started!
I wanted to just focus on the lines and patters in the plastic bag so after switching over to monochrome and my macro lens (105mm f 2.8 for those interested), I came up with these two images below:
Then I thought I could do something a little more interesting and shot the other way towards the bananas for a more colourful background.
I liked the warm glow of the previous one, but I also tried one with a more correct white balance. I’d been shooting on daylight up to this point, but the majority of the ambient light at this point was coming from the interior light fixtures. Switching over to tungsten white balance gave me this:
Finally, I had a look at the Slap Chop and wondered what I could make of it.
The coiled spring on the handle looked kind of interesting so I worked with that. I think these probably wound up being my favourites from the night. Going with monochrome again and looking across towards the white door gave me this:
Then I went around the counter and shot from the other side towards the green cutting board as a background.
I was really pushing it to get a sharp image at this point, handholding in such low light. I’d already pushed up my ISO as high as I was comfortable and was still only at 1/15th of a second or so. To try and gain some more shutter speed, I turned on the light in the dining area (duh, why didn’t I think of that half an hour ago!) and tried another background idea shooting towards the bananas like I did with the strainer. This time, the light from the dining room I had just turned on (to my left as I was shooting) reflected off the green cutting board on the right and gave me this cool green highlight I wasn’t expecting.
This was a great exercise and I found that the more time I spent, the more images I began to see. I had planned on only spending a few minutes trying this out then getting some work done, but before I knew it, an hour and a half had gone by and I only felt like I was just getting going!
It seems a popular pursuit in landscape photography is to globe trot to exotic locations mining dramatic landscapes in theatrical light. In the past, the hard work in this kind of photography was the research. Getting yourself in the right place at the right time in the right conditions was a bit of a task. Today, with GPS-tagged photos, location apps and eGuides, finding the world’s trophy locations has never been easier. Witness the ever-increasing crowds lining up for sweet light photos of Maroon Bells, Delicate Arch, the Giant’s Cuaseway or the Taj Mahal. Few locations are ‘secret’ any longer so coming up with unique photos based solely on access and good light is getting harder and harder.
As impressive as it is to see a portfolio of big dramatic landscape images from around the world, these portfolios resonate with us less and less because they are now so common place. The photographers’ portfolios that really impress us are those photographers who can consistently make the extraordinary from the ordinary. Those photographers who find gems in their living room, in the ditch on the side of the highway or in any location most of us would pass over are, in our eyes, true artists. There is a plethora of fantastic images all within eye sight of each of us right now, if only we are open to seeing. Think of Edward Weston’s famous photo Pepper 30. Who would have thought that a common vegetable we get in our grocery bag could be such an evocative subject?
I have occasionally been able to make a memorable (at least to me) photo of mundane subjects that normally I would pass over, but mostly I still rely on the obvious to present itself for me to capture as an image. (Sam, on the other hand, almost always goes for the quiet, personal image of an overlooked subject even when we are in a trophy location with big light.)
In an attempt to grow as artists and to learn to see deeper, we have given ourselves an ongoing assignment; to create ‘something from nothing’. We will pick a mundane location or subject and try and make a photo with personal vision. This is probably easier for Samantha. I know I will struggle because I have been trained for over 25 years to go for the big light!
Of course the danger of consciously forcing yourself ‘to see’ is that you may fail simply by being conscious of intention. The idea here is not to purposely create an ‘extraordinary photo of the ordinary’ that we can show off (that is just another form of trophy hunting and bragging). Rather the goal is the process of seeing. The failures (in seeing) are just as important as the successes. We will show both. I rarely show my failures so this is a big step for me 😉
With that I share with you my first “Something from Nothing” exercise and the thought process behind it. We would love it if some of you tried this exercise along with us. Send us your description and a series of images from your own attempts and if we think the results are instructive we’ll share them here on the oopoomoo blog (email@example.com). Happy seeing!
Something from Nothing – The First Attempt
One day while doing the dishes I noticed the vases in the windowsill were reflecting colours on the metal of the sink. I took a half an hour off of house duties, grabbed my camera and snapped a few photos.
Like most of us, I found myself immediately attracted to the brightest colour and contrast of the scene. I started with the reflections spilling across the drain. The image below is probably the most obvious and was the ‘gimme’ image that had to be made first!
Next, I tried to move beyond the obvious and work pure colour and shape in a more abstract representation. The image below relies on the geometry inherent in the scene (circle, triangles and line) along with the coloured reflection but is a little more subtle. I used a shallow depth of field to focus attention on the foreground metal.
I wanted an even more abstract representation of the sink and drain and shot through the reflection on the edge of the sink to show a hint of the subject emerging through the coloured reflection. This is the image I like the best from the series and represents for me a marriage of pure abstraction of colour and shape with an anchor of reality. I also like how the frame is divideded into triangles of reality in monochrome and abstraction in colour.
I then tried to work the lines of the facet and taps but didn’t really get anything evocative but rather just predictable and boring. Notice I still couldn’t get away from the draw of colour!
In the end, I had one image that I liked. None of the results here are ‘extraordinary’ but the process really helped me tune my eye. Now that I look at the overall image of the kitchen I see things I missed while I was fixated on the coloured reflections. For example, in the upper left of the photo the bottom of a wine glass contrasts strongly with a silver bowl. That might make an interesting photo. Also the soap bubbles on the counter would make an a decent abstract macro image. There are dancing shadows on the tiles above the taps that would be worth a look. Personally, I think I was too fixated on the reflections to see the other visual gifts that the scene contained. This exercise makes me want to try the kitchen sink again to see if I can see a little deeper next time. I gotta go and get the dishes finished. Who knows what I might find!
Samantha and I had a lot of fun with a great group of photographers this past weekend at the Learning to See Photography Bootcamp in Yellowknife. The photographers took to our assignments with gusto and pulled off some really creative images from ‘mundane’ subjects. Thanks to all for being such a great group! We also want to thank Lee Sacrey for organizing and hosting the event. Lee, you’re the best!
We were also honoured to participate as judges in the Skills Canada NWT event that was held in Yellowknife Tuesday, April 17. The event covered competition in the trades with high school and post secondary students participating. We judged the photography competition that had a photojournalism theme. We were again impressed by the level of skill from the competitors. Yellowknife has some crazy great talent!
Speaking of talent we also got to visit with one of Canada’s most talented commercial shooters, Dave Brosha! Recently Dave has posted an amazing photo that went viral around the web; check it out here.
Below are a few assignment photos from the participants in the Learning to See Photography Bootcamp. We hope you enjoy them. Click on their names to see more work! And stay tuned for Learning to See assignments here on oopoomoo where you can upload photos and get our feedback for free (of course chocolate is always accepted in appreciation!)
‘Tis the season of self-improvement, and what better way to improve oneself than setting a creative goal like becoming a better photographer! But ‘better photographer’ is pretty vague, isn’t it? Sometimes it helps to come at these kinds of things sideways. We often advise our students to try a project for a set period of time if they feel like their photography is in a rut. The project should be as detailed as possible, with a finite time and a measurable goal. You also want your project to be realistic so that it is achievable. Many shooters were inspired by the ‘Daily Snap’ project Darwin took on at his old blog in 2010 but photographing every day may not be realistic for all of us. A good project that is very effective but a bit less time-intensive might be to choose a nearby location and visit this spot once a week for several months, making images at different times of day, in various weather and when you are in different moods. This kind of a project helps you learn to see by challenging you to find something worth photographing even after you become familiar with (and often desensitized to) a location. It also improves your self-awareness of what motivates you to click the shutter and how your state of mind influences your photography. By keeping your images, you’ll have a ‘photographic record’ of your evolution through the project…and maybe even an image or two that you are proud of taking and that is worth sharing.
How do you continue to develop your artistic skill as a photographer?