Natural Vision

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Silverpixels5, Jun 9, 2003.

  1. Silverpixels5

    Silverpixels5 Member

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    The current issue of Lens Work had a pretty good article about a photographer's natural vision. The editor discussed how a photographer can take a variety of photographs well, but they always excell in one particular area over the rest, beit landscapes, portraits, close-up, etc. It caused me to look back the photos I've been taking the past few years and saw that I basically take 2 kinds of pictures: portraits and objects within a certain distace from the camera. While the portraits I take are nice, I find that the pictures of inanimate objects (usually outdoors) are exceedingly better. These are usually things that are about one to maybe 30 feet from the camera. Also my black and white photos always seem much better than my color ones...as a matter of fact I'd be hard pressed to find a color photo of mine that I like much at all.

    So I was wondering if any of you have a certain niche of photography that you fit in. This can be a format, style, or even a particular printing process. I look forward to everyone's responses!
     
  2. Annemarieke

    Annemarieke Member

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    I strongly believe in concentrating on one (or two) areas in photography that you happen to be good at, in stead of trying to achieve a moderate level in all other areas. My favourite (and it happens to be my best area) is landscape photography. What I often notice in Holland is that landscape photographers often combine that passion with potraiture, probably to earn some money. I am not sure why this works, but it does seem to.

    As far as colour versus B/W is concerned, I have the same "problem". My B/W is much better than my colour. I guess for me this is because with mono you can be really creative in the darkroom, whereas with colour this is more restricted (unless you go digital........oops this is a swearword here, isn't it...sorry!).
     
  3. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    Whilst I agree that we all tend to concentrate on subject matter that we like or think produces our best work I think it's essential that we look to develop our seeing and ultimately our style. It is so easy to carry on making photographs in a particular vein and not see that we are only producing more of the same and our style is really in part a formula. I can never agree that a certain way of printing is style, again it falls into the category of formula, anyone can print dark and satanic or light and airy fairy.

    Yars ago I made only landscape photographs and hated photographing people and photography got boring. I decided to take a radical change of direction and started carrying a 35mm camera at all times and disciplined myself to use only one lens and expose one roll of black and white film each week and photograph anything that caught my eye, no matter how wacky although I avoided landscapes. I photographed people, light that appealed to me, signs and notices with text that I thought humourous or otherwise, in fact I just snapped away until the film was done.At the end of the week I processed the film, contacted printed it and chose the image that I though was the best and filed it in a loose leaf folder. This became my visual journal. I did not look at the prints once they were filed until about 6 months later and spent a couple of hours going through them. I was amazed firstly at what I had photographed and secondly that I saw similarities in images that were totally diverse in content. As I carried on doing my visual journal over the months and years I did develop a style that was not a formula, it was a way of seeing no matter what the subject matter was that I photographed. I carried on with the journal for quite a long time looking at it every few months and the gave it a rest. When I feel that my photography is going stale I start with my journal again, so far it has not failed me.

    I'm convinced that the journal has had a huge influence on my photography and willingness to make photographs of subjects that I'm not really comfortable with.
     
  4. lee

    lee Member

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    I tend to think that Les is on to something. Expanding one's ability to see takes a lot of work. One's vision (photographically) can be very limiting. I am trying to learn to be a landscape guy but I don't see the grand vista yet or at least readily. I like to think my images are more intimate. Maybe I am fooling myself. But we (I) should work hard to over come those limitations.

    lee\c
     
  5. Silverpixels5

    Silverpixels5 Member

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    Now I do agree that one should not limit themselves at all. After all, while I may not be the best at photographing people, it's what I like to photograph the most. Variety keeps things fresh, and one shouldn't solely focus on the one area they are really well at. Although, I do think that they should find out what area that is and devote a good amount of time at making the best of it.
     
  6. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    That is almost exactly what I have benn doing for several years Les. I began to always take a 35mm to use as a notebook for looking at light, texture, perpective etc. Sometimes I would see a subject that I felt was better suited for LF and would use several lenses and perspectives with 35mm and return later with the LF. I did the same thing, contact printing and then printing the two or three best of a roll. Eventually I found the more intriguing images on the 35mm film. So that exercise has taught me what I am attracted to visually and have the best relationship with. It is an on going process and will continue as long as I can hold a camera. But it has helped my LF work a great deal by honing in on subjects I wanted to photograph and not subjects I thought I am supposed to photograph.


    I like to work with all kinds of subject matter, but I would say the least interesting is the grand landscape in the Ansel Adams tradition. I Love the work of others but I never seem to get an image that has any real excitement. I love found still lifes and abstraction, and the more intimate landscape of urban and rural interface. And at one time i didn't enjoy portraiture but find with LF and trusting my judgement for lighting and pose I am more successful.
     
  7. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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  8. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Doing something completely different once in a while is a good idea, IMHO.

    I used to have "detailmania" - wanting every detail there, everything pin sharp, etc... The problem was I was shooting 35mm! I then went out and bought an old Polaroid somethingorother, and used it exclusively for image transfer until I had learned to make unsharp images.

    So now I use LF...
     
  9. Silverpixels5

    Silverpixels5 Member

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    I used to be like that, but then I saw that I probably would never be satisfied, so i went out of bought some 35mm T-Max P3200, pushed it to 6400 and shot a bunch of things at night. I did this for about a month...purposely shooting things both in and out of focus. In the end I really liked the look of a lot of the prints, and when I went back to shooting medium and slow films on MF the grain seemed to have disappeared...
     
  10. bmac

    bmac Member

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    I think I am in the minority here. I started out shooting portraits, and family photos. I did it part time for several years. I was never happy. No matter how hard I tried to make "masterpieces", It always came down to the fact that I genuinely hated what I was doing. I finally wised up and decided that I would earn my living soley from staring at a computer screen for 10 hours a day, and satify my creative bug by sahooting photos for myself. This turned into taking black and white scenics pretty much exclusivly. I still shoot a little color film. Probably about 10 rolls a year now. Am I limiting myself by not shooting street photography? I don't think so, narrowing my focus to scenics and nature has forced me to take the best photos that I am able to. I'm not good at street, have no interest in bird photography, and while I got pretty good at portraiture, it bores me to death. Ok, enough rambling from me, its dinner time :smile:
     
  11. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Hmmm. I guess you were far closer to Ansel Adams and his color work than I am, so ... no argument from me. I do have a couple of prints of his color photography... from "Horizons", March 1960.

    I wish I could do as "poorly" as these ... even a little bit.

    I've used these to illustrate "style". Most would not immediately recognize them as Ansel Adams work, being hooked into his image as a "Black and White" photographer - but once their authorship is known, they are obviously Ansel Adams photographs.

    It is nothing short of phenominal to me that he could do this well with a medium he "hated".
     
  12. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    I guess it goes to show that basics stay the same.
     
  13. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    While everything that others have said is undoubtedly true in their experience, I will take this opportunity to share an experience of mine that occurred in 1984. It was on the 4th of July holiday and I was living in Colorado. I was using 35 mm then and I had my camera set up for extreme close up work so that I could no longer focus the lens and my plane of focus was within 1/4 inch of the front lens element. I was on Peru Creek below Argentine Pass in Colorado. I intended, on that day, to photograph wild flowers and began to do so. While doing so, I became aware of flies on the flowers and was engrossed with them to the extent that I began to photograph them. During that afternoon, I became very involved in the process of "truly seeing a fly" for the first time ever. I saw the hair on their torsos, the irridescence of their wings, and the facets of their eyes. I was involved in the "process" of seeing to the extent that I felt part of a "greater whole".

    I think that in my experience had I continued with the initial object of my attention (the wild flowers), I would have missed a wonderful and meaningful experience. I think that we are all involved in a process of "seeing" in new and unusual ways. To duplicate anothers vision would be to miss ours. To become so firmly entrenched in "usual" ways of seeing would be to disregard that which is there before us.
     
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  15. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    I've just uploaded an example of Ansel Adams' color photography in the "Non-Gallery" gallery. Comments?
     
  16. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Wonderfully said!!!

    I follow my muse - (to hell with whether that sounds "trite" or not!). The best work that we do will invariably be that of whatever *fascinates* us. If one is fascinated by doorknobs, by all means - photograph doorknobs. If the subject is female nudes ..... or bridges, or ...
    What else makes any sense?

    That fascination does not have to be long standing. Momentary flights of imagination can be brilliant.

    It has taken a couple of decades, but I have finally decided that, for me, the way to go is to convince myself of my freedom of the moment; NOT "think too much" (Over-thinking is the photographic equivalent of "overworking" with pencil or charcoal); and FORGET every comment made by any critic ... whenever (that is, remove those from conscious thought ... the "good ones" will survive in pre-consciousness).

    So ... every once in a while, I get a "good one". I can't ask for more.

    I could really go out and KILL myself trying (been there, done that ... got the T-shirt) and ... every once in a while, I'd get a "good one"... but, much less frequently.
     
  17. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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  18. SteveGangi

    SteveGangi Member

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    Talk about tunnel vision :D
    I think we all see differently, and no amount of training or effort will change that. But we do try to expand and refine how we express what we see. If we all did see the same way and think the same way, there would be no point to photography really. Most people (including myself) try not to over-analyze it, for fear that it will become forced or contrived. When the urge hits me, I shoot whatever got my attention, no matter if it is a macro, still life or nature thing. Some people only shoot one type of thing, and to me that would be boring.
     
  19. lee

    lee Member

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    a friend and photographer who attended Rhode Island School of Design when Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind taught there, told me once, that at 55, he photographed the same as when he was 15. Only he was better at it. Kinda reinforces what Steve says.

    lee\c
     
  20. mrneoluddite

    mrneoluddite Member

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    being fairly new at photography, starting digital a couple of years ago and shifting to film in the last year, i hardly feel like i can say what my particular 'vision' might be. however, i certainly have noticed that there are certain subjects that are more likely to jump up and say 'there is an image here.' most often they are out in nature, and involve getting close to the subject; abstracting form out of the whole. still, i'm not sure i would want to classify that as my vision. instead it seems more like a natural strong point in how i see things. what that says to me is that there is a whole range of alternate visions out there for me to explore. i may try them and return to what comes more naturally, but i will always walk away from them with new insights that will impact my 'natural vision.'
     
  21. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I think Les' journal idea is a great one. I usually have a camera with me and do the same, keeping a file of "current" negs and contacts (these seem to go back about 2 years at any given time), that I might print and revisit until I feel I can file them away for a while, and even then I might take out some that have been filed for a while.

    I shoot a variety of subjects. I favor certain things like architecturals, portraits, and landscapes. I used to do a fair amount of street photography, but that's just not what I'm thinking about lately. I started photographing birds a few years ago as a way to learn about birds, because New York is an interesting region for birding. Bird photography accounts for 90% of what I shoot in color or 35mm these days.

    When I feel I need to do something different I'll do pinhole for a while or 35mm B&W or try some unusual film like XX cine stock or Fomapan T200 or I'll use a lens that I've neglected for some time.

    On the other hand, I can see a danger in becoming too eclectic and losing focus, so I don't feel inclined to abandon the subjects that I'm most familiar with.
     
  22. steve

    steve Member

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    Looks like he tried to make a stunning black and white photo in color. Doesn't really work for me as there is no reason for it to be in color. The color adds nothing to the photo and doesn't really aid in telling anything more about the subject.
     
  23. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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  24. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    I have a few more, really more LIKE Ansel Adams' work... sadly they are printed two pages wide and I don't have software that will effectively "stitch" two partial images together. Personally, I think his work is equally as good in either black and white or color ... it is only more recognizable in black and white.
     
  25. steve

    steve Member

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    I've seen the book of his color work. I like color photography. So much so, that I've shot nothing but color since 1983 for my personal work. I'm not anti-color or anti Ansel Adams.

    The difference between a really good color photo and a black and white photo of the same subject is that when you look at the color photo and imagine it in black and white - or take a monochromatic viewing filter and look at the photo to see what it might look like in B&W - you end up saying, "no, works much better in color." In other words, the color gives an added dimension to the work that makes the photo work for that subject - and it absolutely would not work as well in B&W because of that added dimension.

    That just isn't true with Ansel's color work. When I look at his color work, it's a scene that looks good (well composed, framed, etc.) but, there is no intrinsic reason that the photo has to be in color. It could be done in B&W and work just as well, or perhaps even better. They are very good photos, they just don't have the added reason that they have to be rendered in color and no other way.

    I've also seen an exhibition of Edward Weston's color work. They were 8x10 Ilfochrome contact prints of the film he shot as part of an Eastman Kodak trial advertising campaign using famous photographers shooting Kodak color transparency film. Interestingly, he went back and exactly duplicated some of his black and white photos in color, others were new compositions. Although they were great compositions, they didn't have that "spark of recognition" that gives his B&W work so much life.

    This may be because he was using some subjects that he had already photographed successfully in B&W, and hence the "rediscovery" in color didn't gain his full involvement, but, even the new subjects didn't have an intimate interaction of the photographer with the color aspects of the subject. This is sort of a long way of saying, "interesting, yes - photos didn't work as color photos."

    To me, this is what makes color photography so difficult. It's a total involvement with seeing the subject for its color qualities and incorporating those into the photo in a way that reinforces the subject. You have to specifically find the reason for making a photo in color instead of in B&W. It's more than just finding a nice subject, setting up the camera, and loading it with color film instead of black and white. I just don't get the "total involvement with color" as part of Ansel's color work. Instead, I get the subsitution of color film for black and white with a subject.

    For all those reasons, they just don't work for me at a basic level as good color photographs.
     
  26. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    What color photographers have made the work you like the most?