Creative: Notes on Photography, Episode 2

Dear loyal “Followers.” Actually, I don’t like that title, “followers.” I prefer “readers.” More participatory, and you all have an equal voice in this little blog.(In theory)

I had a sinking suspicion this series would be a hit. Why? It’s about actual images. Good, bad, indifferent. What can we do better? What makes a good image? Did I leave the oven on? What’s the fastest land animal?

I’m sticking with Uruguay here because it’s my site and I can. Another image made with a 50mm and TRI-X. This time in hot light, midday during prep time for the LLamadas that would transpire later in the day. Larry, Martin, Diego and myself descend on a gymnasium in Montevideo. We disperse and begin snapping. The crazy thing, thinking about this now, is that this wasn’t that long ago but I don’t remember ANYONE with a mobile phone. Anyway, the gym was surrounded by a large retaining wall. I’d been photographing inside for quite some time and decided to head outside to see what was what even thought the light was total S%$#.

Along the wall sat guys with painted faces, hanging in the shade, which was at least four stops of exposure difference from the hot light of direct sun. I’d typically always hunt backlit pictures during this time of day but instead found myself with a hot foreground and a critical focus area resting in open shade. I had to make a decision. What do I exposure for? So, I chose point of focus exposure, open shade, and just wrote a love letter to the highlights and thought I would kiss them goodbye. Funny thing however. I was shooting….film. And film has amazing latitude for things like this, if processed accordingly, so I actually held some detail in the highlights. (I’m a technical genius.)

The hard part was keeping the man in the foreground centered in the painted lines on the wall, while using a rangefinder…..and as you can see I wasn’t able to do that. Now, it doesn’t wreck the image. I still like the photograph but had I used an slr I would have tried to keep him centered as I’ve shown on the last image here.

What works? Did I mention they have really cool face paint? Foreground, midground working to build depth. I was very close to the man in the foreground and because I was so close the depth of field is shallow, keeping him out of focus while compressing the frame. I also like the fact both men in focus are looking the same direction. The backpack straps are lined up with each man, and the dynamic element lines on the wall are keeping a good lateral tension.

What I don’t like? Didn’t center the man in the foreground. And for some reason the 2001 bugs me. I shot this in like..2012 which you would know but I do so it bugs me, and frankly it’s a bit distracting. I don’t know if I was really able to make this image and crop out the 2001 but it’s something I think about.

Other than that it’s a brilliant image you should all want to own and should all want to pay top dollar for…ahem. Bids start in the seven figures.

This was a frame I knew I would like the second I saw the parts building in the street. I KNEW my picture was the men against the wall but I needed a foreground, so I waited and “danced” around attempting to create this stacking style of image. It’s a low percentage image and one that often ends in frustration when your foreground never materializes or one of your main subjects gets up and walks away but I lucked out a bit here and got both.

17 Comments on “Creative: Notes on Photography, Episode 2”

  1. I actually love shit like the “2001”

    In this day and age when people are always cloning out the lamppost or whatever (Sorry Flemming Bo Jensen, no offense intended!) we wind up with these clinical pictures where every distraction has been eliminated and all the elements subtly moved around to the perfect spot.

    A little roughness, a little imperfection, it makes it feel organic, it makes it feel real. Maybe in 2012 the right answer was to get it perfect in camera and throw the mistakes away but now, only 5-6 years later, I’m over perfect. I hate perfect. Even if you did it in camera, I’m going to suspect photoshop.

    It’s a strong picture, and I think in this moment in this year, the imperfections add more in “”life than they take away in graphical strength.

    If they every getting around to photoshopping IN defects (like an Amish quilt?) I’ll probably go back to liking perfect.

    But then again, I am all about the content. I don’t give much of a damn for composition or graphics, if you’ve got the right Things In The Frame and I can see ’em. This one has the Right Things and they’re In The Frame.

    1. AM,
      Well, I’m dating myself…again, but I wouldn’t be able to clone something out even if I wanted to because I don’t know how to do it.(I can spot dust.) Having said that, I wouldn’t do it. Having the 2001 in this frame bugs me because I’m finicky but I would never take it out, or anything else for that matter. I came from a school where this was totally forbidden. I also worked as a photojournalist during the time that abilities like this became commonplace. I watched photographers set images up, which was a fireable offense, and I also witnessed photographers paying civilians to keep other photographers out of a certain scene. And to go even further, I knew photographers who got caught doctoring their images and watched as they were fired on the spot, some while they were still on the front lines. But I think this game is a personal one now. I think there is so much fake photography, or cleaned or however you want to describe it, that the only person who will care is…well, the maker of the image. And that’s enough for me personally. I actually kinda love the fact the image isn’t perfect, as you do. I’m not even sure what perfect is, but I see a lot of work online that is attempting to be perfect and 99.9% of it is SO boring. Sterile. Impossible. There is so much of this work now that “normal” or “straight” work looks like it came from 1955.

  2. The backpack straps, the opposing white stripe in the wall, and sunlight slicing in making all those v-shapes is just… perfection. This is one of those images that make me wonder what the one before and after it looks like. Did you only shoot the one frame?

    1. C,

      Thank you! I’m actually not sure about before and after. Will have to check the negs. I think I shot at least three but need to check.

  3. Love it! And I agree by pointing the camera more to the right so that the line ends in the corner but having the star pointing down is a important element in my opinion. So I disagree by removing the star maybe 2001 could be removed then… Haha! It’s so much fun! More Daniel More!

    1. Wim,
      I can see both sides. The star adds to the slight chaos, so it’s not the end of the world and the scene might seem too polished if it was removed.

  4. Having been there, this is an image I wish I would have made. I loved it the first time I saw it when you first showed some images from the trip. I’m enjoying the series. Truth be told, it’s helpful for a nimrod like me who can’t explain why I like an image. I personally like the star and 2001. It seemed like it was 2001 in many ways.

  5. Daniel,

    I see the use of dynamic symmetry in this image. Additionally, I think the star creates some tension in the image…it points right at the foreground subject. Anyway, I really thought it was a great image. I am really enjoying this aspect of your blog.


    1. Thanks Patrick. Gonna have to be enough for now. I did go back and look at negs. I shot two frames total. will post the other just to see what happens.

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