Hello My Photographic Friends,
Last month we had our first Simplicity-In-Seeing conference call. I know that many could not participate for various reasons and requested some sort of an update or recording. For now, we don’t have a recording so let me share some points.
We would like to do conference calls on a regular basis, ideally every month (an announcement is coming for the next one!).
If your internet connection is not the fastest, you might consider calling in and using your telephone line for audio.
Google Chrome is the best browser for this purpose.
The JoinMe platform allows us to share our screens so each time I would like to give 1 or 2 people the opportunity to share their screen – in other words to share their work with everybody. I would appreciate it if you sent us a note beforehand. In fact, during the conference call many participants liked the idea so we should have many more images to discuss in our future online meetings.
Also, if you have questions please send them to us beforehand and I will be happy to answer them during our online meetings.
Let’s get back to photography.
First, I would like to say a few words about Simplicity-In-Seeing.
As you’ve noticed, this platform’s main area of interest is seeing. There is plenty of help on the Internet with the technical issues of photography such as post-processing but very little about the aspects of seeing. Indeed, I have met many photographers who are much better than I am in Photoshop but they have a hard time crafting images.
We are a small operation and as such it takes a lot of time to research and present unique material. I am looking for ways to expand our offering (keeping the same price) while producing more content.
Having said that, I would like you to be more involved in shaping the content for the platform. Some of you have already started doing this and I really appreciate it. Your questions and ideas may shape our approach. If you let me know how useful you find each section, we will expand certain sections and tone down others.
It comes down to this: let’s communicate with each other and keep this image-focused community going.
One idea for the New Year is sharing and discussing our imagery. Some participants suggested we start a private Facebook forum where Simplicity-In-Seeing subscribers could post and discuss their imagery. I like this idea a lot and will try to start a group as soon as possible.
What I would also like to do in the New Year is to shoot imagery and sort and edit it live so you can see how I approach this process. Many people find that one of the most difficult problems is choosing the strongest imagery.
That leads me to a summary of 2017. I think it is important to look at your work from time to time and see where you are. Each year I force myself to pick the 10 best images of the year. It is very hard but this exercise gives you great visual feedback.
Here’s what I learnt this year:
- Nine of the ten best images were shot with the X100F (therefore 35mm focal length)
- In eight of the ten images, I found a great stage first, and my subject walked/appeared in the frame.
- In each one, I had to change perspective and the visual point several times before I found the ultimate composition.
- In almost every instance, my negative space (white space or background) takes up a large percentage of the photo.
- Interestingly, six images were in colour (all Classic Chrome) and four in black and white (Acros).
- All the images could have been taken with the original X100 with a super slow autofocus.
- Five were taken here in Vancouver, five in Europe.
In general, as I pointed out in my summary, this was a year of risk-taking. I am sure you’ve noticed that my photography has been constantly evolving. Why am I telling you this?
Because I don’t want you to think about photography, style or method as a destination. Settle on simple post-processing techniques but experiment and go crazy with your seeing.
Let me share some brief thoughts about these images – something I learnt from each of them.
1/2700 sec at f/8
This image was taken in San Francisco near the Contemporary Jewish Museum, one day after our San Francisco Photography Workshop. Very often when people travel they look for well-known locations – a sort of a must-photograph list. There is nothing wrong with that. However, if your trip is purely about photography and you want to capture stunning imagery, you must consider the visuals of each place. What do I mean by that? People don’t often realize but some locations provide you with a beautiful, simple, geometrical background, while others are messy and cluttered. Let me give you two examples:
Chinatown in San Francisco is a great place to visit but for street photography, this location is extremely difficult. Why? Because it is super busy, the background is cluttered and there is very little geometry. It is even difficult to get great light because the streets are narrow. Of course, it doesn’t mean you won’t take a great image there but there are so many other locations where you have the background ready for you.
Another example: when I was shooting in Barcelona I visited the most touristy street – La Rambla. It is so difficult to photograph due to its busyness, trees, messy background. On the other hand, you hit small side streets and not only do you have a strong background but the bouncing light can be really stunning.
My point is this: it matters when and where you shoot.
1/800 sec at f/5.6
This photo was taken inside Gaudi’s La Padrera. My student and I visited this strange but stunning house for a change of scenery and to challenge ourselves. Indeed, the visuals are amazing. This image is just pure geometry and a play on light. Interestingly, it was not part of the exhibition. I noticed the light in one of the cordoned-off areas and put my camera there to capture this stunning visual. It was a matter of arranging lines and elements within the frame.
1/1000 sec at f/5.6
Here is another image from Barcelona. All I had to do was simplify the frame by shooting down. I wanted to eliminate all the buildings from the background and used the floor as my white canvas.
1/850 sec at f/13
No question, I think if I had to choose just one image – this would be a strong contender. This was taken in London shooting through the fountain. You can walk into this fountain with the water spurting up all around you but stay relatively dry. As I was observing the place I noticed a man entering the fountain. I knew this was going to be black and white image from the start, as colour played no role here.
1/800 sec at f/5.6
This image was taken during the Vancouver Fujifilm Walk. It was all about storytelling.
1/320 sec at f/2
Taken for my “Augmented Eye” project in downtown Vancouver. I often try to block part of my frame with a wall or other object to create a black or white canvas. I love this technique and I am going to write more about it.
1/400 sec at f/5.6
This is another example when I found a great stage and had to wait for my subject.
1/340 sec at f/8
In this image, almost all decisions were made in relation to light. My composition was guided by the brightest areas in the scene.
I use the Exposure Compensation Dial (the one marked EV) all the time – you can make your image brighter or darker. The problem many people have is that you cannot do it by eye. You see what you see and your eyes adjust based on the available light. You cannot tell your eyes to underexpose or overexpose. When you go out, play with the compensation dial before you take the image. You will be surprised how different your image can look.
1/800 sec at f/8
Another image taken in Barcelona. I wrote how I captured this image a few weeks ago – you can find the article in the “How it was shot” section.
1/1250 sec at f/3.6
A pure play on light and geometry. Everyone sees a piano here.
Okay, enough of this.
I would like to go through some questions I received from you guys before I dive into the material I prepared for today.
Nazli, one of our subscribers, sent us this black and white image.
It’s a great image. One of the biggest mistakes in photography involves the tendency to include too many elements in the frame. I see this every day. Mind you, there are some images when busyness can be the subject itself. This is a prime example. Clearly this image portrays a crowded public space with shadows of people interacting.
First, B&W is a great choice here. I haven’t seen the RAW file or the scene, of course, but I suspect there is not much colour in this image. Most of the time when you deal with multiple shadows, B&W works best.
Second, notice the line in the middle of the frame almost splitting the image in half. It plays a very important disrupting role. Also, notice the shadow areas in the top left and bottom right corners. These are positioned against each other as triangles, playing the role of a frame. Their positioning – in opposite corners – gives the image visual balance.
It is a great image. One minor suggestion would be to keep the bottom right corner all black. I would prefer not to see anything there. You can bump the blacks or shadows or just brush this area so it gets darker (before and after).
Also, I would like to see the highlights more prominent. You could push the light slider slightly to the right.
I would certainly share this image online. Well done, Nazli!
We also got a question from Jane. She asked: “Olaf, I am often heading out to shoot some street photography but I have a hard time starting” “I cannot find any subjects – everything in big cities is way too busy for me.”
First, you should realize that such a state of “not-seeing” happens to everyone. Some days I go out and yes, I take some images but they are all garbage.
Answering your question, there are a few ways to help. One is to focus on light and light only! You will find an article on the site about this subject. Find a small pocket of light, light bouncing off glass, a car hood, etc. Then imagine how the scene would look if you underexposed (darkened) the entire scene. If this is a problem, try to use your exposure compensation dial and check in your viewfinder.
At this point your scene will simplify. Ask yourself: Where would be a good spot to place my subject?
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