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  1. #1
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Shooting Volume and Editing

    So I was thinking a bit after watching this video http://www.theatlantic.com/video/arc...ograph/243936/

    In this instance Sam Abell has a keeper ratio of roughly 1:3,125 (8 photos used of 25,000 shots)

    Given Sam Abell's skill level, I'm guessing that if we were given the chance to look we might find a few more usable shots among the 24,992 rejects but this begs several questions for most of us: Are we shooting enough to get what we really want? Do we expect too much of a given roll of film or 25-pack of sheets? Do we experiment enough?

    There is also in there a very telling moment in the video where Sam Abell talks about the shot he's been searching for, for a year, isn't good enough. That though brings up another good point, good set of questions for us: How many do we toss? How high is our bar? How many are we willing to edit out, even if we don't have a workable shot? Do we throw enough away?

    A similar thought suggesting that volume is important “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” ― Henri Cartier-Bresson

    So where do you stand on these questions/ideas?

    (BTW, No I'm not suggesting we need to shoot 25,000 shots to get 8)
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

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    David Brown's Avatar
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    Consider the context. This is documentary photography. Take a lot of pictures, use only the best ones. Other photographers, who make deliberate photographs as opposed to taking on sight pictures, might have a different ratio.

    PS: I AM NOT diminishing Sam Abell ...

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    no meaning

    How the National Geographic used to do things has no meaning for real people in today's real world. Having "been in some big towns and heard me some big talk" which includes working for the world's largest news gathering organization in their photo division, my take on all those photos is "why did he take so many bad photos?" One reason is that he did not have a clue what the photo editors -- the people that make the decisions -- really wanted. He was just a smal cog in a big, inefficient machine. I used to watch Big Magazine (Life, Time, Newsweek, etc.) photographers machinegun their way around photo stories. They had no idea if the center of interest in the photo should be on the right, the left, down below or up above or whatever. A particular photo for the cover of the magazine might need the center of the photo to be on the right so headlines could be placed on the left of the page. But nobody knew ahead of time so the photographer would spend his time taking tons of meaningless photos. A magazine or newspaper editor is normally a former reporter, not a photographer, and the average reporter has no idea how you go about getting a really good photo. So there is a lot of spinning of wheels and wasting time and film. Been there, done that.

  4. #4
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Brown View Post
    Consider the context. This is documentary photography. Take a lot of pictures, use only the best ones. Other photographers, who make deliberate photographs as opposed to taking on sight pictures, might have a different ratio.

    PS: I AM NOT diminishing Sam Abell ...
    I know you aren't picking on Abell.

    Abell though, in the video, describes how he decided early in the project how he wanted a very specific photo to end the story with, then he spends 1-1/2 years to plan it, to find the spot, to figure out the composition once found, and finally to make another trip across the continent get the right light and situation. To me that's pretty deliberate even if he did a lot of experimentation along the way.

    A local guy in my area, Bill Proud, similarly will plan shots over quite long timeframes. Bill shoots 4x5 and is much more frugal maybe using 2 or 4 sheets for a shot he way have waited for several years.

    I don't think either is wrong in their approach. Each has a system that works for them.

    Personally when I shoot more, I start seeing more. Another advantage I find in shooting more is acclimatizing my subjects to what I'm doing and the inevitability of me getting their photo, this is truly helpful when shooting events for both candids and formal shots. The extra shots also help me "learn my subject better".
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  5. #5
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by snapguy View Post
    He was just a smal cog in a big, inefficient machine.
    I feel like that at work.
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

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    mark, photography is a weird thing.
    i have photographed the same thing, sometimes for 10 years
    and still not found the photograph i wanted. i have come close a few times
    but it has not appeared on my film yet. sometimes i ride shot gun and
    my wife might say - you are photographing THAT again ? ...
    its like a snow leopard ...

    the makers of that video should have mention
    to stay in the concept of the subject ...
    it took 9 months of 40hour weeks
    to get the footage for that 10 minute video

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    The problem with this approach is that you learn nothing. Whether you get a good shot or not depends on blind staggering luck. Good photographers create their photographs. It's not expensive to run through several rolls of film BUT nothing focuses the mind better than shooting LF. As far as HCB is concerned there are some who would say that he never got out of the first 10,000 photographs.
    Last edited by Gerald C Koch; 06-22-2014 at 10:30 AM. Click to view previous post history.
    A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.

    ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  8. #8
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jnanian View Post
    the makers of that video should have mention
    to stay in the concept of the subject ...
    it took 9 months of 40hour weeks
    to get the footage for that 10 minute video
    Damn straight. There is a lot of work that "outsiders" don't see that goes into good work of any type.
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  9. #9
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gerald C Koch View Post
    The problem with this approach is that you learn nothing.
    I might suggest that it's a different way of learning.
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  10. #10
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markbarendt View Post
    I might suggest that it's a different way of learning.
    Took a walk and had a bit more time to think on this.

    One thing that has been very true about volume in my world is that it gets me better at the mechanics and the craft, as well as the art: this follows HCB's thought more than NG's way of doing business.

    With my Nikons, film and digital combined, I'm probably significantly over 300,000 shots in the last 10 years and the grand majority of those came in the first 3-4 years. One thing that this volume has done is eliminate any guess-work with my cameras and lenses. I don't have to look at the camera to find anything I normally use. When something stops working, I know why/what step I missed or what got bumped, and how to right it.

    A huge percentage of these shots have simply been to test something: How does this feature work? What does the DOF look like in this situation? Do I get more reliable results with AF or manual? What happens when I place mid-tones at x vs y? What do I have to do to use an FM2's meter to place subjects as reliably as my incident meter does. Does a subject look better centered or at 1/3 high or low or left or right? Backlit, cross lit, or front-lit? HP5 vs Delta 400? Incident vs spot? Matrix balanced fill flash vs A mode? Bounce vs fill? How far can I over/under-expose Portra, XP2, FP4... Does this composition or that one work better.
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

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