Dearest APUG...I noticed you've been missing something...

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by SteveH, Jul 27, 2006.

  1. SteveH

    SteveH Member

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    All,
    After reading through a couple of Ansel's writings last night, it struck me like a freight train. While I admit that Im among the largest gear-heads and techies on this board; we've been missing something. Just look at all the forums - LF gear, Film/Paper/Development, Metering, etc....Its all on the scientific and technical aspect side of photography (again, not like Im complaining...). We are missing out on the artistic side of things - discussions on composure, creative posing, etc.
    Im not suggesting that ANOTHER forum be created for composition, Im just looking to fire up a discussion. Sure, we all know about the rule of 1/3rds, leading lines, ad nauseum. But what about some tricks ? What thought process goes through your head when you're photographing something that you feel is of great interest; but none of the above rules apply ?
     
  2. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

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    This has attracted my interest of late:

    http://www.perceptionweb.com/ecvp97/98tue.html

    The paper is here:

    http://www.ski.org/cwt/CWTyler/Art Investigations/AncientEyePlacement/AncientEyeCenterSPIE.html
     
  3. Schlapp

    Schlapp Member

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    Nice start to an intersting thread that I for one would avidly read
     
  4. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    I was just having a conversation with my wife about a similar topic, how many people don't have enough education to understand design. I'm not suggesting that anyone in particular is lacking in knowledge of design, but I wonder how many people have actual education in the concepts of design and how many just picked up bits here and there (like me). I was never taught much about art of any kind until I specificaly sought it out, so I always feel behind when it comes to conversations about design elements. I have learned quite a bit, and have had the opportunity to study with people who have a great understanding, but it takes time to internalize these concepts.

    When I'm out with the camera looking for interesting things to photograph, I don't go through a list of rules, but rather rely on what I have been able to internalize to the point of it becoming automatic. The more I photograph, the more of these concepts begin to shift to automatic mode.

    Interestingly (to me anyway) I find that I can openly discuss design concepts with artists who work in other media, but have difficulty talking about them with photographers. Again, I'm not trying to imply that photographers don't have the artistic background that other artists do, but I do find that photographers tend to talk more about subject matter and technical aspects that other types of artists.

    - Randy
     
  5. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council

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    It's simple...simply apply no rules of composition! As soon as rules are applied they smother whatever relationship you have with your subject.

    Waaaay back when I first starting using 4x5 gear, I would take only one photograph of a scene. I would walk around it, move in closer or farther away, and raise or lower my vantage point until I found what I thought was the single strongest composition. While doing this I would ask myself what it was that attracted me to the scene, and how best to highlight that for others to see in a print. (I've since lightened up, and will sometimes take two or three images, but there's almost always one image stronger than the others).

    Because each scene is made of different compositional elements, and each one demands of me to highlight different aspects within the scene or my relationship/reaction to them, it's impossible to apply rules! Each and every composition is unique unto itself.

    Rules of composition spawn predictable results.

    Good topic...my answers aren't usually this 'black and white' :wink:

    Murray
     
  6. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

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    That's the point of having them, isn't it? Predictable results are only bad if that is all you're capable of producing.

    I have found that blind obedience to 'rules' as such can be stifling to creativity. But blithely ignoring all so-called 'rules' can have its consequences as well - such as very imaginative and offbeat and unusual and unique completely worthless photographs.

    I suspect that's the basis for the old adage that one should learn the rules first - then you'll know when to break them.

    I had a similar discussion once with a fellow who felt that learning how to use a camera was for conformists. Aperture, shutter speed, focus; none of that mattered. What mattered was creativity, which one either had or had not. I disagreed, but then I guess I'm an old stick-in-the-mud conformist.
     
  7. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    Have you read the Preface to Volume 1 yet ?

    d
     
  8. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    The reason that I discuss gear more than art is that it's easier.

    Gear is concrete. It's physical. It's quantifiable and describable.

    How do you describe what is beautiful? Really, you can't. You can show people... but you can't tell people.

    When I see a scene that looks photogenic... I just feel a certain way. I don't think about it in a rational sense. I get out a camera, I explore possibilities, and I shoot. I move the scene around in the viewfinder (or move the camera around the scene), play with lenses, play with filtration, based on my instincts. Eventually I usually get what I was seeking when I first saw the scene.

    It might be interesting to watch me do this... but I doubt it would be interesting to read what I wrote about doing it. :smile:
     
  9. Christopher Colley

    Christopher Colley Member

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    I do not know if this makes sense to anyone but me..

    But I have the thought that 'rules of composition' arent meant to MAKE photographs, in the field they are to be ignored.....

    I believe the rules are a possible way to understand why certain photographs are good.. Not neccesarily why all photographs composed in such a way are good but... a way to explain why some images are a success...

    I can see how this way of thinking could be confusing, it could be easy to jump to thinking 'this is good because of X, now I will compose this way in the field' But what I am describing is more of a happy accident, "hey, it really does work!"

    In my work, I generally find this to be the case, being seperated from the actual event of making a photograph I find that I can think in this way and be happy with my results. While in the field I ignored all the 'rules' and they only come into play when I try to understand why a certain photograph I like is good.. not so I can repeat it, just to know... (and some photos I like apply to no rule..)
     
  10. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

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    True, that.

    Some would disagree, but I take your meaning.

    "Shall I compare thee to a summer day?"

    Seems like some folks have managed to convey nearly-universal concepts of beauty using the written word. Some might say that they are even more beautiful, because they cause the reader to construct what they think is beautiful in their own minds. A photograph or a painting might be beautiful to only a certain segment of the population and repugnant to another.

    How beautiful was Helen of Troy? If we knew with certainty what she looked like, many might find her unlovely. But we know a war was launched over her (in the story), and in our minds, we create a woman whom we do think of as beautiful.

    What are these rules of composition? To me, they are not arbitrary or made-up, they are attempts to describe common experiences - how things 'look photogenic' to use your term. So if you are following your instincts, surprise, that's where the rules came from to begin with. They are merely a way of attempting to codify what we all seem to experience - a time-saver, a shortcut to wisdom usually gained only by hard work and experience.

    Some do, some teach. Many are the writers about photography who are criticized not for what they write, but for their supposed lack of photographic ability.
     
  11. catem

    catem Member

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    Rules are O.K. in their place but they are made to be broken and for some people I think rules become confusing and stifling. If you're confident enough you can acknowledge them, but still do your own thing.
    Cate
     
  12. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    That makes perfect sense to me. The few times I've tried to think of composition, lines, thirds, golden sections and so on, the pictures suck.

    But looking closer at the few really good pictures I've made, all the rules of composition are there. I just wasn't concious of it when I took the picture.

    And that makes it difficult to discuss, I guess...
     
  13. MenacingTourist

    MenacingTourist Member

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    Photography is unique in that it attracts a lot of left brain people. You don't see this in painting or sculpture to the degree that you have in photography. I think it's a win win situation. Right brained people are flexing thier left sides and vice versa. It brings together a group of people that wouldn't normally hang out and ends up helping each other learn in areas the other needs.

    The left brain side of photography warrants a lot of testing and discussion of what is being tested and the results. Photography can be very technical and I find that I'm engaging that side of me more and more. All that chemistry is cool-especially when it works! You wouldn't have been able to bribe me into a chemistry class in school but now I seek it out.

    I also think photography is very approchable. You can get results fairly quickly and can be engaged on any number of levels or interests without really having to live up to an "establishment". Some are primarily interested in "documenting" while others are "fine art" minded and everything in between or otherwise.

    I've noticed a lack of esthetic discussion as well. For some reason it's a little tricky to get this going here. Maybe it's the format. So much of the emotion needed to convey these kinds of ideas are hard to get across while typing. I loved the critiquing sessions in college but wonder how that would really translate to an internet forum.

    Bottom line for me is there is a real need for right brained discussion on APUG but I'm not sure it's possible. I'm glad for what I can get (which is a lot) and I'll let the rest work itself out.
     
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  15. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

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    I think people misunderstand the term 'rules' when it comes to photography, or art in general. Mention the word 'rules' and you see people stiffen up, as if you are telling them how to be creative or how to make their art.

    There are no 'rules' in the sense of like speed limits or pulling over for an ambulance or 'i before e except after c', etc. There is no Judge PhotoDredd intoning "I am duh law," and then tearing your photographs to bits and tossing you in jail.

    Photographers have proven that a photograph does not have to be on paper. It does not have to be made with a camera. It does not have to involve film. There is no one process that must be followed. There is no subject that is taboo. There is no subject not worth photographing. There is nothing that cannot be photographed and displayed such that it is not interesting to someone.

    The rules simply are attempts to codify what learned eyes have observed as being pleasing to many people.

    If one is concerned with making their photograph pleasing to many people, the rules are a good place to start.

    If one is not concerned with making their photograph pleasing to many people, but is instead concerned with making exactly and precisely the photograph that they wish to make, then the rules would make no sense and would be silly to use as a guideline.

    GG Allin made art the way he wanted to make art. Not many people liked it, but there you go. Did he want people to like it, or did he want to be true to himself?

    The biggest problem I see is people who choose to please only themselves and then become frustrated that more people don't share their appreciation of their own work. One must think about what one's intent is.
     
  16. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

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    Most people can walk. They don't think about how to balance themselves. But there are rules on how to walk. I am going to hazard a guess that if some folks thought hard about the rules of walking, they'd have a difficult time of it.

    So if it works for you not to think about the rules, then that's what works best for you! Others might be assisted by thinking about the rules as they apply them.
     
  17. catem

    catem Member

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    I think many people have an intuitive sense of what makes a good composition, and therefore what constitutes the 'rules', (without them needing to be acknowledged as or called 'rules' at all). Which doesn't mean discussion with others can't be helpful, and suggestions may inforce or break so-called 'rules'. Rules are useful either for schools of artistic thought and practice that want to keep to certain conventions, or they are for people who actually struggle a bit to get a successful composition visually. But they do need to be considered with care - maybe to come with a user safety warning :D .
    Cate
     
  18. kb244

    kb244 Member

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    Rules don't teach you how to take photographs, They initially teach you how to See, once you're comfortable being able to see a photograph in the making, you can throw the rules out the window.
     
  19. Peter Williams

    Peter Williams Member

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    Maybe rules is the wrong word. Perhaps technique is better. I like the second definition from Merriam Webster (sorry - can't afford the online OED):

    2a : a body of technical methods (as in a craft or in scientific research) b : a method of accomplishing a desired aim

    I would say the "Rule of Thirds" is a technique that can help establishing an aestheically pleasing subject placement. What these rules do provide is a concrete way to discuss artistic elements. Suggesting the rule of thirds can be clearer than suggesting that the subject be moved down and slightly to the right.

    Peter
     
  20. catem

    catem Member

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    Wigwam, I think you're mistaken in your concept of what 'rules' are - they are not written in stone, and following rules will not 'willy-nilly' provide an image that will be acceptable to most people. By themselves, they mean very little. I'm not saying they do not have a use, but what you can offer as a photographer or artist is what is important. If you are undertaking a commission for someone, then finding out what they want from you is much more complex than, say, following a set of rules for composition.

    And really, in personal work, if you don't aim to 'please yourself' even if it has to be 'please only [your]self' what is the point of doing it? Otherwise we'd all be doing market research to find the formula for success, rather than creating our own work, or finding our own 'style'.
    Cate
     
  21. roteague

    roteague Member

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    I completely agree. However, when I setup a shot, I don't necessarily think about the "rules" of composition, but subconciously I they are there. Those times where I do break the "rule", I realize it.
     
  22. Cheryl Jacobs

    Cheryl Jacobs Member

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    I think talking about composition and design is only a very tiny step past talking about equipment. I think the truly emotional/creative aspects of a person's photography have very little to do with photography. It has a lot more to do with what the photographer values, about who the photographer is as a person.

    The "rules" are guidelines to be learned and then encorporated when and how the photographer chooses. I do think there's much value in knowing the rules, for the same reason that there's value in knowing the other technical aspects of photography: to give the photographer the tools in his toolbelt to use in his own way, as he sees fit.

    A lot of photographers have asked me how they should go about developing their photographic style. I tell them to concentrate on developing as a human being, and photograph that journey.
     
  23. Mark H

    Mark H Member

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    One resource that I found very helpful was the book "Creative Elements" by Eddie Ephraums. Besides the valuable technical info, he explains why he chose one shot over another for the final print. Seeing what a photographer has rejected, and hearing the reasons why, can be as important as seeing final prints. This process has helped me view scenes in a different way; there aren't always hard and fast rules but some general guidelines that are helpful.
    If anyone knows of other books, etc., that they have found helpful in developing that artistic sense, it would be good to hear about them.
     
  24. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

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    Sorry, I thought I was saying that, essentially.

    Many of us are gratified when we able to provide enjoyment to others.

    Artists are often (and perhaps with some justification) called the ultimate narcissists. I do not disparage the photographer whose concern is mainly with how their photographs make them feel, but I find many photographers who have some concern with how their photographs make others feel more accessible.

    Put another way - does a storyteller tell stories to make themselves happy? Would they tell stories to themselves, alone at home? Or do they tell stories because of the pleasure they gain by bringing joy to others?

    I would never tell a photographer who wished only to please themselves that they were wrong to do so. I would likewise expect that my desire to please others as my way of making myself happy would be equally acceptable. The 'rules' as such would tend to be more useful to the latter than the former, wouldn't you agree?
     
  25. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

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    Pardon me for saying so, and I mean no disrespect, but I'd not find that response terribly helpful if I were just starting out.

    If someone asked me how to write a story, I would not advise them to seek their inner being and then write about that journey (not that the resulting story would not possibly be interesting). I might tell them about the elements of a typical story - plot construction, introduction, character development, crisis, resolution, dialog, voice, denouement, and so on. Those are a few of the 'rules' of writing stories.

    Does one have to follow them? Certainly not. Will following the rules blindly lead to a successful and celebrated story? Of course not. But it is a place to begin. It is a framework or a touchstone. And it is a manner in which many people expect stories to be constructed.

    And then, of course, there is Hemingway.

    In the end, one does what one pleases, as it should be. A logical place to begin is with the rules. In photography, I would ask your hypothetical questioner "What is it you wish to say?" I would proceed based on their answer.
     
  26. Cheryl Jacobs

    Cheryl Jacobs Member

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    LOL. Well, fortunately for me, most of them are my students, and we spend a great deal of time talking about what is meant by that first statement of mine that you quoted. The result? I have seen some amazing shifts in their work because they stopped worrying about trying to have a style, and simply started shooting intuitively.

    Tell me how you would give them precise, step-by-step directions to shooting with depth and emotion. It just isn't that simple. The already know the rules of thumb. They know exposure and basic composition. They know their light. They don't need me to teach them that. It's not what they asked. They asked how to develop personal style... and that cannot be explained in terms of technique.