Travel photography can be a great deal of fun, however as Sally Mann is found of saying, some of the best pictures can be taken around the house. We had a party at the house this weekend, and some friends brought some wonderful flowers that really needed to be photographed.
A black curtain hung next to a window, some soft, natural light and everything was set for a picture. I wanted a straight vase and ultimately selected an old wine bottle, dutifully emptied of its original contents, which held the flower nice and straight. I found a suitable table and draped it with a dark cloth. For lighting I directed the natural light with a reflector.
Once set up, the simple part is the actual photography. Key to these still life, is to use spot metering on the brightest area. In this case, the flower petals proved to be the brightest area. Once the exposure was set to keep all the highlights from being blown out, all that was left was to recompose.
The challenge of such a shot is that the preparation takes so much longer than the actual execution that the end result hardly seems to justify the expense of time and effort. In order to compensate for this feeling, the photographer will often shoot too many images of the flower, expending an entire film roll or occupying too much memory.
I suggest that you consider what other items could be photographed with a similar background and gather those. Once the "foldable studio" is set up, there are plenty of things that might benefit from the setting.
I took the liberty to shoot this flower both in digital and on film. For the film I finished off a roll of 120 HP5+ at EI 1600 that I had on my Hasselblad. I also had a roll of 35mm also of HP5 at EI 200 that I shot as well. The end result, three or four digital images followed by ten or so images on film.
I heard it all before, it is not worth the money, it is a camera made for people with too much money and too little ability, it is a status symbol. And the crazy bit, each of these has an element of truth into it. The Leica camera is ridiculously priced and I did not purchase it for a full year after it came out. I could not bring myself to part with the money. I love my Leica ME and the M10 did not introduce too many new features that I absolutely needed.
But this year my wife and I celebrated 20 years of wedding happiness. When she asked me what I wanted, I could not think of anything else. With so many of my fellow photographers criticizing the purchase of the Leica M10, I thought I would openly explain my logic.
The answer can be found deep in my Lightroom archives. A few years ago, I wanted to see if it was necessary to carry three massive lenses on vacation. I was shooting my Nikon D800 and usually took a 70-200mm, 24-70mm and 14-24mm lenses. So I went back to my previous three vacations, and had Lightroom tell me how many of the pictures I took were taken with each lens. My next vacation I left the 70-200mm lens at home. Nice simple. I love the lens but I was not shooting it very much and it was not worth taking.
A few months ago I was looking back at some of my favorite images and I noticed an odd trend. The vast majority of my favorite images were taken with the Leica ME. I had several favorite images shot with my Nikon D800, however these were images I had planned, set up and prepared for. This was with the full tripod, remote trigger, lens filters and so forth.
In fact, it would have been much cheaper if I never saw the difference between one camera and another. But I did. When I walk around with a Leica ME I do not really feel that I have a camera. I feel that it is part of me and that people will not be bothered with my use of it. When I pick up my Nikon D800, I am clearly shooting and I know people will be bothered with such a massive camera pointing at them.
This picture above is an example of what I am talking about. It is not a wonderful picture, but it is a picture I would never have taken with the Nikon D800. I took this picture, and several others, and the man to my right never even looked at me. These are the kinds of pictures that I take with my Leica that I do not take with my DSLR.
This picture above is one of my all time favorite shots. I was in Covent Garden and was wondering around trying to get a good shot. Not sure what it is with Covent Garden, but it is a wonderful place that is frustratingly difficult to shoot. As I wandered around, I saw this entertainment show. Now I should explain that there are shows there everyday and they are selected carefully. Only the best of the performances are allowed there.
I found myself near the wall of a Church that sits opposite the Garden. As I turned I noticed that a show as starting and I was behind the performer. My instinct was to move but while I did, I pulled my Leica ME up and snapped a single shot and then I walked off for the show to start.
This image would never have been captured without a Leica and what is worse, I would not have gotten a good image of the Garden.
This is what a Leica M gives me. It gives me the ability to shoot images I want to shoot, but a DSLR makes it impossible to shoot. So if I wanted to continue to shoot the images that I want to then I needed to continue shooting a Leica.
So why buy the M10? Simply put, I wanted the better low light capabilities and it delivers. I would not have gotten it if it had come with a EVF, or some other gimmick. I wanted a simple camera that got out of my way and allowed me to forget it was there.
Is it worth the $7500 price tag? For me it is. I am willing to pay this to continue to shoot the images that I love.
So six photographers were asked by Canon to shoot the same person, however each was given a different background of the person. The six photographers shot drastically different photographs based on what they thought they knew of the person. You can see an article on PetaPixel here.
This interesting experiment highlights the impact that a photographer has on the images they take. This is why, when I find a photographer I like, I need to dive deeply into their lives to try and understand their perspective. But in so doing, I am reinterpreting the image through a different lens, and this can cause problems.
Here is my own experiment to highlight the pitfalls of interpreting a photographers perspective.
Here we have two photographs by the same photographer of two different ladies. Both are interesting shots, the first an intimate snapshot of a woman who is caught on a toilet and manages a coy smile. The second, is a graceful posed image of a beautiful woman with a striking off camera gaze. Both were shot by Lartigue.
Anyone can look to these two images and see an eye for photography. Anyone can see the obvious talent and in spite of the very different photographic styles, it is clear that Lartigue executed both wonderfully well.
If one begins to look deeper at Lartigue's life, one finds that the first photo is of Bibi, his first wife. It was shot during their honeymoon. She was his main subject for years, both before and after they were married. As the marriage began to fall apart she asked for a divorce and left him. Lartigue then got together with Renee Perle who was a model. She became his muse and he shot photographs of her all over.
When you compare the images of his first wife, candid, unposed and innocent it is easy to believe one sees happiness and joy. As one continues to look at the images of Renee Perle it is easy to believe that one sees fake poses, an act for the lens that must be covering up something that is missing...perhaps the joy we saw before.
Looking back up at the two images, we see them very differently now. We see the intimate joy of a young bride being photographed by her new husband and on the second a false pose, an image that could have been shot by any fashion photographer.
But these interpretations are adjusted based on our understand of Lartigue and his life. You can read his diary and see his thoughts of each woman, you can marvel at how his style changed and even feel a bit sad that his first marriage failed. But these things are not captured in the image.
In this two dimensional representation of three dimensional ladies, we have wonderful images. We have gesture captured wonderfully, we have grace and we have composition. It is our biased attempt to extrapolate the photographer's intent based on our understanding of what was happening to his life that alters our perception and appreciation of two fine photographs.
A photograph can be a simple snapshot that you glance over for a few seconds and move on. Or you can linger over the photograph and conceptualize it, but then you can go deeper and attempt to understand the photograph. Through each stage your perception of the photograph will be altered tremendously when the image itself has not changed a bit.
As Canon proved in their experiment, a photographer will impact an image based on their perception of the subject. But as shown above, the viewer will impact the interpretation of an image based on their perception of the photographer. So a well thought out image is the product of the photographers bias intermingled with the viewer's own bias.
Patrick...confirmed film & digital photography addict.