We are Statues

6 04 2010

Black. Man., originally uploaded by kamikaze productions.

It is my belief – mainly because I’ve been taking portraits for some time – that people have a uniformity of range. When it comes to posing, I will never make an argument that a model/actor (i.e. entertainer) has less range than a regular person. But what I will argue is that the raw and natural exposure to emotion that we all possess as humans gives us a range of posture and position that can create photos like this.

This photo makes me recall images of famous leaders that have carried their torch through our cold world. There are several factors that make their images inheritently more powerful – context, history, significance, to name a few. But that doesn’t mean we can’t attempt to re-create those same powerful images.

Technically speaking, I find that a close crop is going to be the best way of bringing the power to our protaganist. Shooting too far away invites distractions into the scene, marginalizing our subject and ultimately diminishing his/her power. For the model, simplicity is best. There are a range of emotions we as humans can express but it isn’t the “what” as much as it is the “how.” How should you express sadness, fear, strength – simply. Do not overthink the easy. And while modeling for a non-model may seem hard…it isn’t if you just channel what you already know. I can give more advice on techniquie, but I think it is self-explanatory and it would be more fun to experiment – which is what I advocate on this blog!

Some post-processing was used for the photo. I worked with contrast and saturation, but it pretty much communicated all on its own. Now go, get out there and shoot some powerful portraits.


Alternative Wedding Shots

24 11 2009

Her Walk., originally uploaded by kamikaze productions.

I shot my first wedding not too long ago. I didn’t have any of the camera equipment that a pro would recommend, nor the experience for that matter. I just came with my love of the camera and the art of finding the right shot. Why was I able to do this? Well quite frankly – this wasn’t a paying gig.

It had to be one of the great opportunities I’ve ever had. Being at a friends wedding and being able to capture some not so contemporary, not so cookie cutter, not so yearbook shots…making the wedding into you’re own personal artistic rendition. If you ever have the chance to do it, please do by all means. Sitting in the audience is boring anyway, so get up and try it out!

The picture above illustrates what I meant by artistic. Most wedding shots, and event photos for that matter, concentrate on a subject – in sports it’s the players and at a rally the orator. But how you capture an event is really the fun part. How do you transcend the subject so that the meaning becomes less simple?

The best advice I can give is step outside the comfort zone. Apply your street photography sense to the situation, in my case a wedding. The baseline, there is more than one way to skin a cat. (Is that the right adage?) In this picture, I shot the subject from the diagonal rear. The focus is her, but you get a sense that you may feel what she’s feeling as she is escorted past her friends and family by her loving father. You feel her regalness as all eyes are on the groom’s Queen, she is holding court. This isn’t a feeling you could capture by shooting her dead on center. Also consider the crop, which is tight in this case but encompasses enough of the supporting cast to draw you into her mind.

Trial and error always wins in my head…so just shoot and don’t be afraid to take the unnatural, the less normal of shots. Good luck and good shooting!

The World’s a Studio

14 03 2009

Next., originally uploaded by kamikaze productions.

Ok…so I’m exaggerating but then again I’m not. Whenever I’m asked by a friend to help them with some modeling shots, the first thing I say is you have to understand – 1) I don’t have any sort of studio lighting, and 2) I don’t have proper equipment (backdrops, etc). But I never turn down an opportunity to capture another subject, learn another skill, or just pick up the camera.

My friend Chelsea was in town and asked for a favor, so we tried to navigate my apartment in a way that would give somewhat usable lighting and background. Now here is where the whole anywhere is a studio idea comes in. We made a white wall be the equivalent of a backdrop and propped up lights to help eliminate shadows. Biggest downside – regular lights aren’t white!

But creativity is the important part of the experience. There was no way pictures were going to come out and be worthy of her final portfolio, but the practice and the experience yield returns as well.

One thing I learned – when you get in tight, you can mimic a studio quality image. Now this picture I have edited of course but the point is you can make an ordinary wall be a plain backdrop – I’ve contemplated taking the idea to another level and hanging paper to change a background color as well.

The ultimate lesson is that anything is possible with a camera and an idea. Studios traditionally have the fancy equipment, lighting, etc…but if you follow the mantra “Life’s a stage”…then it won’t be that hard for the photographer like you and me without the fancy stuff to adapt the phrase to say – “Life’s a studio”…just make sure you bring the camera with you when you leave the house.

Lack of Inspiration

17 02 2009

Winter Walk, originally uploaded by kamikaze productions.

It was somewhere around 15-22 degrees Fahrenheit that day. I was planning on doing some portraits in Central Park, but my “date” couldn’t make it. I decided because it was such a well lit day to hang out anyway and see if I could catch some good shots.

It had been awhile since I had just tried to capture landscapes and scenary, and I won’t pretend like it was easy. I felt mediocre at best, couldn’t put anything into frame – it was just rough on my ego. Couple that with the frigid temperature, and well inspiration was clearly absent. I may have taken somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 shots, and luckily I did walk away with a few I could be proud of.

The picture above happened when I was really justt rying to capture some depth by focusing on the shrubs with the majority of the frame lending itself to the walkway. However, a group of young people walked onto the ice and started to trek down the path. I snapped about 10 images making sure i blurred the passerbys on purpose. I thought it would add to the effect. And it did – I have a picture that served its purpose – wintery imagery, depth, and a cool feeling reminiscent of the cold climate.

I learned two lessons from this adventure. 1) When you don’t see anything you want to take pictures of – take the pictures anyway. Frame and re-frame just keep taking pictures until your brain kickstarts or you get a lucky moment. 2) Never ever choose to not shoot just because of a cancellation. I was already on location with gear – worse thing I could have done would be do go home after complaining to myself how cold it was. Keep shooting and never cancel on yourself, a sure fire way to come out with at least one photo to smile about.

Shooting Sexy

21 01 2009

Appeal., originally uploaded by kamikaze productions.

It wasn’t until recently, that I really got into shooting a model in a photograph. Most of the subjects in my work are my friends turned guinea pigs or strangers unaware of the new found celebrity via my lens.

I had a friend that approached me looking for some basic shots to start off her porfolio. It was an extraordinary challenge, given my lack of experience, not to mention the yellowish tint of light and low light at that — throw in no use of flash — in my apartment. So instead of really getting portfolio work done, it became a learning experience in what work and what doesn’t in low light no flash situations, and I found out that you can salvage a shoot if you don’t mind getting artistic.

This photo exudes sexy, classy — sexy. There is one element in this photo that keeps it sexy as opposed to the reaction — “She’s hot!” that you would get from a regular photo on some bikini modeling website. That element is absence of light, the vacuum that creates one of a photographer’s favorite tools – shadows.

Don’t get me wrong, I did use a preset in light room when I processed this shot, but the shadows are what make this photo what it is. There are both subtle shadows and overwhelming shadows. Subtle shadows have their role in a light ballad down the center of the chest, while heavy shadows drench her right side and even medium shadows have some play across her face.

Photography is capturing an image based on lighting…I have several other definitions as well…but regardless, pay attention to how you use the absence of lighting as well as the presence of lighting to capture the context, emotion, and aesthetic that you are looking for when shooting.

The Subjectivity of Art/ Photography

10 07 2008

Subjectivity can work for you and against you. Photography is a passion of mine, love it with all my heart. It releases me, teaches me, helps me appreciate the everyday things many pass by…it does so many things that let’s just leave it at that. And part of this art passion is the ability to share with others.

I have always been a competitive guy. From varsity basketball in high school to pumping weights in the gym…even trying to date girl after girl as a young man in college. One thing about photography is that it has allowed me to be decidedly competitive. By that I mean, when I want to compete, I kick the gears in motion, and when I don’t a state of humility shrouds my mind. Humility has been my natural state for this hobby because I started “late” in the craft, and because hey, skill is relative anyway, why not appreciate the beauty that other people are experiencing through their eyes.

However, none of what I’ve said actually prepares you for all of reality’s twists and turns. Flickr.com, the photo sharing website, has given me a chance to share my art with others, receive feedback, get rated, and discuss techniques and ideas with a multitude of talented photographers around the world. This is a blessing of technology, but it also can present some real challenges.

The picture of above is one I took of a friends tattoo. Using my 50mm f/1.4, I was able to capture the tattoo in great clarity, while blurring the surrounding picture. I got the picture home later for editing, and moved one slider in Adobe Lightroom, and this is the end result. I was instantly happy with the conclusion. It reminded me of an oil painting, illustrating some singer in a jazz night club some decades ago. When I moved that one slider and stopped, all I could think was ART! and I was happy to share this creation with the world.

After adding the photo to Flickr and dropping it in a couple of groups, I awaited feedback and ratings. Unfortunately, the reception was lukewarm. So I was instantly pissed, but not in a bad way…just didn’t understand how some people considered what they considered “Art” and then this piece received the comments it did. “The DoF is too narrow,” “I don’t get it”…etc, you can click the picture and read. I even spelled out my thoughts in the caption, but to know avail I guess.

My point in writing this blog post is not to whine or complain, but to share with the public something that you all probably realize but never think about. It is quite vexing actually…as teens we walk in to a gallery or museum, look at masterpieces and say “What the hell is that, I don’t like it.” Then we turn around as full fledged adults, walk into the same places and stare at a piece for 15 minutes, examining every angle, until we are at least confident enough to understand why people consider something a masterpiece. For the Flickr users out there reading this, there is an embedded message within this paragraph. As practitioners of our craft, we owe it to our fellow artists to think more about what he/she is trying to deliver. Don’t spend 15 minutes analyzing a piece, but also don’t be that teenage kid in the museum speed walking past art that makes you think so you can get to all the undisputed fun stuff at the end of the museum.

We live in a world where there are a lot of things that are indisputable, but those things exist only at the ends of the spectrum…and everything else is debatable. For instance, you know an ultra conservative or a neo liberal candidate, and you end up spending no time on politicians like that. All the debate happens around the candidates in the middle of the spectrum. And this is what subjectivity is made of, stuff that is in the middle of two or more varying viewpoints. Our art form yields millions and billions of new images a year, and of course, a majority of those images will be scattered amongst the middle of the spectrum where we will have fun debating and discussing. But be aware of what you are getting into and always be responsible with how you approach. Different from politics, ART is connected directly to the heart, and you never know when a certain view will hurt a fellow photog…tread lightly. Nevertheless, don’t hold back either because there is always something to learn and ways to be better…this process is just as important individually as it is collectively.

Get in Tight

2 07 2008

I’m not sure about the percentages, but I’m pretty sure a lot of people who take pictures (notice I didn’t say photographers) like to fit everything into a shot. Photographers would probably opt to find a pleasant and pleasing composition when greeted with an immense scene, but people who take pictures tend to zoom out or back up. Well here is a message to picture takers and photographers alike – GET IN TIGHT!

I haven’t had a lot of time, due to my moving to NY, so I went back in my Photostream a bit to come up with an idea to blog. I stumbled across this photo and it hit me. People should know that frames and compositions are EVERYWHERE. Taking pictures of giant landscapes or of an entire building or an entire group of people is cool and all…but a photo becomes artistic, unique, and different when you get in close and find what really strikes you the most. With the picture above I did just that. I had the girl and the flower in one big shot, and it did nothing for my mind. It was a good picture but not a great picture. So I got in closer, found a frame that spoke to me and voila! A tighter crop produced a more vocal piece, and that is what it is about.

Here’s a piece of learning advice and a good way to practice – take pictures of a lot of small objects one at a time. If you are sitting at your desk bored, pull out your camera and take shots of your mouse from several angles, your monitor, keyboard, etc…and then see what looks good. If you have a super fast lens, like say – 50mm f/1.4 or something in that maximum aperture range, use it. Try out different bokehs in order to create the perfect amount of blur. Practicing on things around the house will get your eye trained to be anticipatory and ready for opportunities when you see them in the street or on your next photo shoot. So good luck and good shooting!