Simplicity….

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For many photographers, no aspect of photography is more difficult than composition. Perhaps, for that reason,  people have tried to create rules for composing photographs. But the landscape Masters of the past were unanimous in their disdain for such formulas.

« To consult the rules of Composition before making a Photograph is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walk » said Weston. While rules ( maybe guidelines would be a better word… ) can be helpful in some situations, design is too complex for any rule to apply in all situations. The only one I know that always apply is Simplicity.

An Inevitable Photograph…

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To those of you who know Ansel Adams, you may know these words belong to him : while driving to Sante Fe, he glanced to his left and saw a scenery he described as « An Inevitable Photograph… » but, while it seemed inevitable to him, how many photographers would have realized the potential of the scene ?

Our challenge, as Photographers, is to be able to « disconnect » our functional view : the way we perceive our environment related to our everyday use of what surrounds us : a Road : a flat strip of  tar, Sky : What is over our head, Colza : what farmers grow in their fields and re-decipher these elements as visual components. Evaluate them in volumes, textures, colors and shapes. Mix them to built an appealing design. I’d like to mention a crucial ability we should have, all of us  : THis is what Admas, Weston and Portern called Visualization : The ability to imagine the final print and use all the tools at our disposal to achieve that result. Visualization might seem less important in an age when Photographs can viewed an instant after pressing the shutter, but the tremendous control available to digital Photographers means that it is more important than ever, because the possibilities are so vast !

Do you visualize having highlight and shadow detail in a high-contrast scene ? No matter how much contrast you’re facing, it’s now possible to show detail throughout the image by merging several images together with HDR.. BUT, you have to visualize this in advance in order to make several different exposures that will be aligned and exposed correctly. Do you want great Depth of Field, beyond what your lens is capable of ? Again, you must foresee this and take several  frames focused at varying distances.

Unless you have a clear idea in your mind of what you want to achieve, you might forget a vital step  in making your image. Once you’ve visualized the desired result, you have to be able to execute the necessary steps. Technique is of paramount importance. Masterize it is not an option : You do have to work a lot. Weston said :  » For no matter how fine the innate sensitiveness, without technique, that means to an end ! « 

One could think technique is no more an issue nowadays because of amazing features we have in our DSLRs. Forget it ! Cameras are built to make good standard documentary pictures. They are not built to scrutinize the depth of your soul and, as a result, reinterpret the scenery accordingly ! Making a Photograph is a personal violation not an algorithm  application…

Dominance and Proportions…

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Dominance usually means that some aspect of composition influences the entire composition more strongly than all the other aspects. The dominant part of a photograph is often called the centre of interest or major motif. But, be careful, it’s not what I call the Subject Matter. Subject Matter comes from all the elements that build your image. It is, or should be, a resulting effect of combination of all the components in your image. But a component in the frame may be dominant because of its size, color, location, symbolic value, or any combination of these and other factors. For whatever reason, it acts as a point of visual emphasis or rest, giving a sense of order and stability to the composition.

Proportion has to do with the relative size of objects in the picture space. it is closely related to balance, as the amount of space allocated to a major object or area, in relation to that allocated to a minor one, can determine wether pictorial balance is satisfactory. Proportion has an enormous capacity to influence our understanding and to generate feelings about both an entire composition and its component parts.

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Bords de Loire…

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I keep on thinking Photographers have to be technically proficient even if editing softwares can help in some ways  ! Now that most Photographers shoot in digital, it’s much easier to fake the technical side. But you either have the ability to compose great images or you don’t ! Editing Softwares can enhance a good image but it won’t create one. Once more, what makes the difference is the « guts » you have input in your capture, the message you have infused by way of your composition and, for sure, your ability to master the basic parameters : Aperture / Shutter Speed / DOF & ISO !

I’m very keen on saying being a Photographer is not just about taking the image correctly, technically speaking : You have to possess a vision, a strong sensibility and a disruptive manner to express it !

Frisking the Viewfinder…

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As a Photographer, You must examine your image carefully through the viewfinder in order to preview what the camera will record. You must be sensitive to any elements that will not be recorded as the eye perceives them. Then you can consider wether or not they need to be corrected and, if they do, how to go about doing it !

It’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of careful previewing, even with digital cameras, if you are concerned about good design in your Photographs. Keep in mind you see subjectively but the lens is objective. it doesn’t  pick and choose what is important, but shows everything in its field of view. Getting things right before you press the shutter release usually makes far more sense than trying to correct them later. I really insist on the fact you should read your viewfinder as a page and evaluating, weighing each element in the frame.

Sometimes, by moving one or two steps aside, you’ll change the global balance of your image. This is what we call « Composition ». Identifying what to keep and what to reject, where to place the components. As I observed this butte far away,  I experienced a great surge of emotional response that stimulates me creatively.

Colour and Composition…

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A Photographer controls color by both selection and technique. For example, you can add, change or eliminate colors by altering your camera position, by varying the time of the day, by extending or reducing the duration of exposure, and by using filters or computer or darkroom manipulation. You can diffuse, mix, or soften colors by throwing them out of focus and/or by using a shallow depth of field. You can also control color by where you locate it in the picture and how you vary the size of the hue areas.

First, ask yourself, « Why am I making this Picture ? », when you have identified the reason, let’s say, the strength of Spring in Nature,  you will be able to make sensible judgments about colour. So, you try to choose Subject Matter that expresses the theme by its colour ! Now, you must ask yourself questions about the placement and size of these colours. « Where do I place this blooming tree within the picture space ? » –  » How large or small should it be in relation to the others components in the frame ? ». The answers will not be based solely on colour relationships. The shape of this precise tree  and the tones of its leaves must also be considered. The colour pattern will express your theme that Spring’s strength is unstoppable.

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Spring… Tranquil Violence !

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The Air through which we shoot has a profound impact on the look and mood of an image.  try to leave your camera on the very exact same spot, at the same time of day with identical focal-length settings, and you’ll get two entirely different photographs depending on wether tha air was hazy, misty or crystal clear. If you follow my work, you know how often I make pictures in misty atmospherics because I usually go in the fields very early in the morning, and most of the time, I encounter haze or fog remaining from the night. You should know you can be particularly rewarded with moody and unique images in these dreamy sceneries ! In such situations, keep in mind there are some basic points to follow : a tripod is your best friend ! Actually a tripod is ALWAYS your best friend put especially in atmospheric imagery because you want to be able to shoot at low ISO to avoid noise and preserve color.

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Preparing for a Photo Workshop…

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If You want to attend a Workshop , May I suggest you read these few lines :

When I teach my Workshops, I find that there are some participants who come more prepared than others. They have the right gear, they have familiarized themselves with the general area and they have the right attitude. consistently, these participants come away from the Workshops having learned more and made greater improvements, and overall they have a better experience ! If you plan to attend a workshop, mine or any other,  Here are some suggestions on how to prepare…

 These are few simple things everyone can do to ensure their photo workshops provide maximum benefit and enjoyment.

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Early Morning…

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When composing an Image, I’m always wondering what’s the Subject Matter and how can I reinforce the message. For instance, in this picture of trees barely glimpsed through morning mists may provide little factual information about either the trees or the mists, yet give an accurate sense of atmospheric and weather conditions, and an overall feeling of the scene. When interpreting Nature, you can act on every parameter you have at hand as a Photographer to convey the sense of the mood you have in front of the scene. By emphasizing a mood, feeling or natural design by the selection of the viewpoint, the components you frame in your image, you incorporate your own interpretation in the landscape. In this watercolors-like Photograph, I wanted to convey a sense of great space and calm, quietude, harmony and serenity. By over-exposing the image and blurring a bit my capture, I tried to freeze this impression in this the resulting image.

A Rightful Giving-Back…

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In many of my posts, I explain how important is the state of mind you’re in when making Photographs. To accelerate the process, I usually listen to Music. It helps in the way it catalyzes your emotional response to both, the scenery you’re in front of and the rhythm that runs in your head ! Even if I am not so proud of it, I admit I myself am surprised in yelling on Keith Jarrett melodies ! Jazz, Opera or Classical Music are my fuel for Creativity ! As a rightful giving-back, I like to cooperate in Records Cover Design !