Those that know me know that I love to photograph the landscape – preferably without people in view! Last weekend as part of Head On Photo Festival, I participated in two workshops run by Ben Lowy. For those who are not familiar with Ben Lowy’s work he is best known for his coverage of war zones & popularized the concept of using an iPhone for journalism.
The first, which was really a warm up session, was an afternoon shoot in Luna Park with only an iPhone. I am used to shooting with a iPhone and editing with Snapseed, so apart from trying out a new camera app the main challenges are shooting in bright light. The next one was a 1am to 4am session in Kings Cross. Our objective was to approach strangers in order to get street portraits.
You will think I am just a country bumpkin, but I don’t think I have ever been to Kings Cross at night, & certainly not wandering around with a camera. I am definitively out of my comfort zone.
There has been a lot of publicity about alcohol-fueled violence, and we are walking into the main area of Kings Cross right at lock-down. The place is buzzing. The nightclubs appear full & lots of people are walking around. There is a considerable police presence with at least 2-3 officers on almost every corner, as well as pairs walking up & down the street.
We are in a group of a dozen people so whilst I am a bit nervous, I at least feel that we have safety in numbers.
The first lap of Darlinghurst Road it is hard to decide what to take photos of, so many things are happening & this is such a foreign landscape for me!
Today nearly everyone is a photographer.
Hands up if you have a phone that is capable of taking a photo!
You have just confirmed that there are lots of people out taking photos. Did you know that just last year alone there were more photos taken then in the entire history of photography!
As photographers we need to be making images, not just taking images.
So it’s a case of hurry up & slow down. Find a suitable location. This will be our backdrop. Check the lighting. The lack of light & mixed light sources can play havoc with camera settings. Next watch & wait – a person might walk into our scene & create just the right composition. We are making conscious choices to make the image.
Don’t get over-excited, remember the basics like no poles sticking out of people’s heads, or hands or feet cut off. If your subject is wearing 7inch high-heels, get them in the frame. Make sure the subject is isolated. If you are talking to them, get them to move & pose as you suggest, or change your shooting position to avoid distracting backgrounds. In most cases half a step either way, or raising or lowering the camera can make a huge difference to whether an image is successful or not.
Apart from social media – you know when you post a photo of your morning coffee & write “awesome morning coffee” our images don’t come with descriptions or have us there to explain to the viewer what the photo is about.
How do you show your words? Think about what your caption might be & use that as a guide. So if your caption is “lonely sad man” how would depict this. You have to think about the composition, is he smiling in a group? Have you used bright colours. Or, is he up close & filling the frame?
What if you stepped back & he is quite small in the frame, he is surrounded by darkness & a single street lamp highlights just him. The image is gritty & desaturated. Even just these descriptions – what image is forming in your mind? Which do you think conveys the caption “lonely sad man”??
There is no right or wrong – A lot of times how we communicate visually is very personal, & I just want you to think about it. You could say that successful art asks questions, successful journalism answers questions.
Something else to contemplate is to shoot each project like a book, some consistency in the narrative, so that the style, look & format work together. So if your images are bright & very saturated then a gritty high contrast black & white image will not fit (despite it being a dramatic stand-alone image)
It’s great to get out of your comfort zone & do something completely different. I learnt lots made some new friends and had fun – what more could you want!
#headon #headonphotofest #benlowy24hour #fujifilm #xt1 #mkimages
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