I thought you might enjoy my friend Marco. You might know him too. He believes he knows everything, and he loves to be antagonistic when he doesn’t know. Oh, did I mention he loves selfies? Here’s the conversation.
“What are you saying?” he asks. “Think about it,” I said. A photographer and an artist are quite similar if not the same. We both use our tools to make a creative expression. Depending on what we wish you to experience when viewing our work, we may choose to include or not incorporate different elements into our work. Sometimes what is left out or on the other hand included may greatly change the viewing experience.
Think about a beautiful sunset along the shores of a lake, some rocks in the foreground, add a small boat in the middle of the scene, and a colorful sky with light clouds in the distance. The colors are pinkish reds and blues. The lake is calm with reflections of the colors dancing across it.
The description paints a beautiful scene in our minds. What if I told you the creative artist decided to leave out the plastic bags and jugs floating next to the rocks? So much for a pretty picture. The painter simply leaves it out while the creative photographer “photoshops” it out.
Marco, earlier I said that photographs are lies, they are not. They are creative choices to express the visual language of photography. Both, the painter, and the photographer make choices to express their artistic work. The painter uses his tools – the brush, paint, and canvas while a photographer uses the camera. We understand the painter’s tools, so let’s learn about the tools and creative choices of the photographer.
A camera is a great tool but sadly, has poor eyesight. The human eye has a much greater dynamic range than a camera, which means it can adjust to a wider range of light levels and perceive more subtle color differences.
The human eye perceives depth due to its two eyes creating a stereoscopic view. Cameras, however, only have one lens, so a photographer uses a combination of different lenses and controls the quality of light entering the camera to create an illusion of depth or lack of it.
So, right at the start, we make creative choices about making a photograph.
Let’s look at a few.
Fog Building has several creative choices. The first was to get up early before the sun rose to capture the light, the fog, and the sunrise. I decided to frame the image in what I like to call the Big Picture.
A big picture is a scene that has a beginning, middle, and end with acceptable focus throughout. This is accomplished by using a small aperture opening in the lens. The wide-angle lens choice adds to the depth of the photograph. Using a tripod, allowed me to set the sensor sensitivity low eliminating noise and allowing for a long shutter duration.
The photograph was taken a few minutes before sunrise on a visit to Horseshoe Bend Farm Wine in Tennessee, along the Duck River. At the start of my journey a few years back, I chose a shorter trailer than many others. My rig is 28 feet. I tell you this because if it had been longer than 30 feet, I never would have been able to get there to make the photograph.
Golden Lion Tamarin was made at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse New York. This photograph’s creative choices are much different from the Fog Building photograph. The overall creative decision was to isolate or selectively focus the subject and blur the background. To accomplish this, I chose a wide-open aperture. This made the area in focus very shallow. You see how quickly the wood and background start to blur. My lens choice – a small telephoto lens compresses the scene and adds to the softness behind the tamarin.
Hand-holding my camera in the dimly lit room, I need to choose a shutter duration to minimize camera shake. I choose 1/60 second. However, this required a much higher sensitivity pushing my ISO to 1600. The higher setting will introduce noise in the image’s darker areas, which might require some post-processing. In the end, I was very pleased with the outcome.
So, Marco, photographs are a lot more than point-and-shooting. Today, I’ve only focused on the depth of field in a photograph. There are so many more decisions. What if the subject is moving? How would warmer or cooler colors make the image feel? Is it the right time of day? The list goes on and on.
Hope you enjoyed my conversation with Marco today. I would love to hear your thoughts. Would you enjoy more conversations with Marco and learn more about the creative choices of photography?
P.S. Want more like this? I send theses articles out to friends, photographers, and art lovers who want to improve their skills, and explore their own creativity or simply enjoy my thoughts and stories and I would love to include you.
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