Creative: Notes on Photography Episode 1

Okay, look alive people. Uncle Danno has a whole new bag of tricks. A new series titled “Notes on Photography.” What is it you ask? Well, it’s just that, notes on photography. Literally. For some unknown and troubling reason I’m finding myself falling in love with the idea of photography once again. I have ZERO interest in BEING a photographer, but I now describe myself as “an enthusiast with a track record,” or sometimes “an enthusiast with a history.” I want to make pictures again, do stories and continue to print any and all of the above.

One of the things I find lacking in the online, photography discussion is talk about actual images. Yes, you heard that right, actual images. As we all know, the online photo world is dominated, and I mean totally and utterly dominated, by the geeks and their ongoing orgy of technology and equipment. Not to mention, when images are discussed it tends to come in the form of “sick,” “awesome,” “cool.” You know, the mind numbing nonsense of online likes and digital pats on the back.

Personally, I could give two s^%$# whether or not anyone likes what I’m doing. I actually don’t mean this to be rude, it’s just not the mentality I came to photography with. I came with the idea that I would do what I do and HOPEFULLY people would pay attention, but if not it wasn’t going to change what I did. The idea of doing work that is going to be most appealing is to opposed to my way of thinking I don’t even know if I could do that if I wanted to.

Which brings me to this series. I’m going to take old images and mark them up as if I was editing the work. What I like, don’t like, what I would change and how I would make things better given the chance to return to these moments. I’ll also be using the new work I’m aiming to make later in the year.

Okay, working from this premise let’s revisit the image from the top of the post. What works in this particular image? Shot with a 50mm at about f/4 or f/4.5, my goal was to use the lens to stack and compress a foreground, mid ground and background, the same thing I would do with a wide angle. The background was too busy, and there were too many other people to actually use the 35mm so I stuck to the 50mm. These were the only two lenses I had with me on this day. So what works is the layering and also the fact that the woman in critical focus is turning her head and having a small moment either with herself or with someone else. MOMENTS people. Yes, those. In my mind these are the two things that work.

Okay, what didn’t work? The image is weighted slightly too far to the left. I needed to either take one small step forward to turn my lens to the right slightly. I would have eliminated that empty space on the left I’ve highlighted in white. Now, I could crop but I came from the full frame tradition meaning NO cropping and if you need to crop it means you weren’t good enough in the field. You might think this is silly but this is the level of critique that real photographers discuss when they are talking with someone who understands and someone who holds themselves to a high standard.

Okay, time to slap a +11 HDR filter on this baby and call it good. Ahem. So, you might think I would ask you if you like this new series and if you want me to continue but I will save you these questions because I’m going to do it whether you want it or not. What will change is the time I spend on the notes. This was done quickly and on the spur of the moment. Let’s get back to actually photography discussion so that all of us can get better, more refined and add support to a profession that finds itself on the brink.

33 Comments on “Creative: Notes on Photography Episode 1”

      1. Not sure why not. Turtle was a visionary.

        Seriously, though, these are the types of conversations I want to have. Understanding what you see vs what I see. Why you see something as wasted space while I see it as breathing room. I’m really down in the weeds these days on the psychology of design/composition and color theory. Studying a lot of master painters as well.

        It’s far more interesting and enjoyable to me than what I have to deal with in the day job. 2nd day back from vacation and I’m already booked out for 3-4 weeks of consecutive travel and ready to shoot myself.

        1. Sean,
          Turtle brah. Cool, glad you like it. This is what much of what my photography education was about only we did it in front of the class. And after making all the images in the darkroom…

  1. I’ll certainly enjoy this series… Looking forward to it even though you don’t give two s^%$# about what I think. Ha! I don’t give two s^%$# about what I think so we’re even.

    1. Larry,
      Nobody gives a s%$# what you think, so you have nothing to lose. And anyone who claims they do care should be jailed.

  2. Bravo, Dan. A welcome treat. Nick Tauro ( did this for a while on some iconic photos and it was a nice diversion from what one usually finds on the web. Not sure if he has stopped with his reviews, but I have noticed a pause.

    1. David,
      I’m not surprised. Nick is a smart guy and is hopelessly addicted to photography. I’ll check out his notes.

  3. PLEASE CONTINUE! It is so refreshing… And when you described the today behavior on social media like “Cool” or “I like” on images I felt sick instantly… But I don’t want to open the box about social media, yet! 😉 Daniel please keep going!

  4. Hell yeah, this will be trending! Love this new series! I like the notion about cropping. Even though I can crop my concert shots, rotate them etc and no one will ever know (and I do) – there is still a part of me that truly loves when I really nail one photo midst action, perfect composition, with no crop at all, untouched.

    1. FBJ,
      I was trending before trending was trending. My mom things I’m great, going back to day one when I was birthed all over the place. We used to have to print the border when we printed in the darkroom. Full frame printing to prove you nailed it in the field.

  5. Way to put it out there man. Looking forward to this series. Always interesting to see what others see.

    Smiling…and I know three things already: I’m so glad I’m not constrained by the hidden laws of being a real photog, I don’t see the same as you, but you don’t care.

    I’m also interested to see what you shoot with your zoom. I think I said to you that I put down the 35 and 21 and picked up a wide range zoom that I would never have dreamed of touching because of how technically poor there were when they first came out. It has been a very liberating & pleasurable experience. Most specifically (and humbly) my ‘seeing’ has really opened up to another level.

    Oh…and now that you have given Mrs Smogranch credit for the night shot of you, I double dog dare you to critique that image!

  6. A belated Happy New Year!

    A great start to the new series and I’m looking forward to reading more.

    This website continues to be a great source of inspiration and knowledge. So much better than all the noise elsewhere on the web.

    From an old video interview you did years ago I always remember you saying that you try to have a ‘foreground, mid ground and background’ in every photo. It’s not always easy to do but I’ve always remembered that comment when shooting myself.

    1. Paul,
      Historically, the wide angle was most suited for this, but you can do it with almost any lens. Very difficult, very low percentage, especially when shooting things you are no orchestrating. One of the things about IG is that 99.9% of what you see is crafted imagery. I don’t shoot that way.

  7. I like the original I cropped version as well. If you look at that section of pock marked wall, there is another face – so it fits with the rest of the image.

  8. Daniel,
    This format is excellent. There is only a few photographers/“enthusiast with a track record” doing this type of explanation of their photography. I really enjoy your blog and I have been lurking for quite some time. Thanks for all of your hard work and dedication to the arts. Keep up the great work!


  9. Pingback: Creative: Follow Up | Shifter

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