Today I am delighted to share with you another excerpt from my upcoming book, “Seeing Simplified – 100 Photographic Deliberations.” I hope you enjoy this Simplicity-In-Seeing exclusive.
Embrace the Shadow
There would be no photography without light and shadow. It is amazing how many photographers are dismissive of this truism. In the meantime, those dark areas in your image often play a crucial role navigating your viewer toward your subject or even providing a black canvas for the entire image.
In some instances, it is very helpful to consider shadow as one of the photo elements. When you think in such terms, your photographs will gain another dimension – a sort of 3D look – allowing your viewer to explore and wander instead of skipping to the next one.
The image above would not have happened if not for the shadow. In fact, it was this deep black space which triggered my attention and prompted me to design this photograph. Embrace it and view it as one of the elements. You won’t believe how much your photography will improve.
Open up your seeing
Gaudi’s hidden masterpiece
When leading a private photography workshop in Barcelona, I took my client to La Pedrera – a remarkable house designed by Antoni Gaudi. One of the reasons I picked this location was its design, which offered us very strange, unusual visuals.
As I was walking inside I noticed a small opening, or rather hallway, fenced off from the rest of the building. I peeked in and I was taken by the beautiful, bizarre look and texture of the building. Everyone passed by this place as it was not part of the exhibition. There was no question for me that those strange elements could be arranged into a fascinating photograph. I spent almost an hour observing and arranging all the pieces together. The midday light provided me with strong shadows and an opportunity to combine a boring hallway with an usual elevation of the building.
I took at least ten variations of this image. Love all of them.
A few weeks ago, I shared this image on social media and someone threw a strong accusation at me: “This is not street photography.” My answer was: “So what!” Open up your seeing and don’t be fixated on one genre.
Imagining the light before it arrives
The music of light
On our recent trip to London, we encountered stormy weather on the first day. However, in London it means waiting roughly twenty minutes and the sun will reappear with Big Ben accuracy. We knew that beautiful, late-afternoon, contrasty light would arrive any time now. A yellow staircase immediately became my main point of interest.
One of the best exercises to train your eye is to look at objects around you and imagine them in different lighting scenarios. With time, this practice will allow you to pre-visualize some scenes with different light than is currently available. There was no question in my mind that once the sun found its way to hit the yellow staircase, it would come alive. It was a matter of framing the scene and deciding on the placement of my subject. Anticipate the light. Imagine. Learn to see it before it arrives.
Everything is your playground
There are certain expectations and styles pushed over and over again in regard to street photography. It is easy to forget that creative seeing should have no limits. While wandering around keep in mind that everything around you could serve as compositional apparatus.
When shooting on the streets of Vancouver I encountered a glass, prism-shaped piece of furniture. With my usual failure to dampen down my curiosity, I approached this object and started composing street images looking through it. Of course, my main consideration was design and the interaction of the glass shelves with strong sunshine. Any movement of my camera provided me with different lighting and composition. It was like playing with thousands of blocks of Lego without instructions. As a kid, you wouldn’t have a problem picking any piece and just creating.
When shooting on the street, don’t disregard anything – garbage cans, signs, an abandoned lamp, a flying bag or burned cigarette – it all works. Try implementing those things in your shots, shoot through them and don’t be afraid to go berserk.
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