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Photo Tips by Mike Rosen

OCTOBER 2012


IN THIS ISSUE: CAPTURE THE "ESSENCE" OF YOUR SUBJECTS

Hi <<First Name>>,

I recently had the pleasure of attending a week-long photography workshop in the beautiful coastal village of Rockport, Maine. The instructor was world-class photographer, teacher and writer, Eddie Soloway. Eddie shoots and teaches from the heart. His work would be inspiring to any photographer--professional or amateur--and certainly is to me. 

One of the overriding themes of the workshop was to try to "capture the essence" of our subjects. Yogi Berra famously said, "You can see a lot by just looking." So often we don't really do that, at least not in any penetrating or potentially creative way. For example, we see a magnificent scenic place and immediately take the picture, trying to include everything in it. This often makes for a confusing mess that's been shot by thousands or millions of people before you. Your viewers may think it's a pretty picture but will usually not remember it.

Instead, why not look more closely? Look at every detail, pattern, shadow, angle and juxtaposition. Try to isolate a compelling single element that otherwise may be lost in the jungle of competing objects and that most eloquently and artistically describes the beauty of what you're experiencing. If you can do that, you've found the essence of your subject, which truly expresses its character. Fill the frame with it and only then start shooting.

One other tip: Once you've defined the essence of a scene, really work it, especially if it's a "wow" subject (a favorite Eddie Soloway term). Make many images of it from varying positions, with varying exposures, focal lengths and depth of field. You'll likely find one that stands out from the rest that, as they say, is "suitable for framing."

Here are a few images that I think illustrate "capturing the essence" fairly well. 

This view of workers at the huge market in Immokalee, Florida was interesting. But when I looked more closely on my camera screen, I realized the image was too busy and that what really attracted me was the guy on the right sorting out the peppers. 

So I moved in closer, experimented with different ideas, and ultimately framed what I felt was the essence of what I was looking at. The worker's hands evidence strength, hard work and grit, the definition or essence of this sort of manual labor.
 

            

I was busy shooting at Rockport harbor one afternoon during our workshop and found myself very attracted to the picturesque boat docks. There was all kinds of stuff going on, but to me the essence was this composition of some of the pillars and the relections, shadows and colors in the water. 



         

The beach at Lincolnville Beach, a small village near Rockport, was blanketed with interesting rock patterns, but if you try to get too much in your image, you lose the wonderful details in the larger mass. I took a lot of shots, but finally found what I felt was the essence. I love the two snails, which seem like eyeballs on fish (or some other sea creatures) making their way across the beach.


If you've travelled much in Europe, you've likely visited many beautiful cathedrals. It's natural to want to photograph the vast spaces with their lovely arches, carvings and stained glass windows. But like the rocks on the beach, the details are what define the character of these grandiose places. If you stop to look more closely at them, you may discover their essence: what, to you, best defines their character.

I went through this process in Segovia Cathedral in Spain. While wandering around shooting aimlessly, I noticed the colorful reflections of the stained glass on the columns. I positioned myself so the frame included small parts of the soaring arches and sculptures, but nothing else. To me, it clearly defines the essence of the cathedral in one simple, uncluttered image. 


Perhaps the above comments and photos will inspire you to spend more time looking at your subjects and seeing the essence of them. I hope so. Your pictures will move up a notch as you begin to do this, and your viewers will notice it. It's worth working on and it's fun.

One final note: After almost three years, I plan to shift from a monthly Photo Tips schedule to a "periodic" one, most likely bi-monthly. It seems like my personal calendar is often interfering with the monthly publication schedule. I do expect to continue it, however, and hope you continue to read, enjoy and improve your own photos as a result. Thank you.

All the best,

Mike












 


 

 

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EDDIE SOLOWAY

As I mentioned in the opening of this newsletter, I learned a lot from Eddie at the Maine workshop I was fortunate to attend in August. He's a thoughtful, knowledgable and philosophical artist and a great photographer. Click HERE to read about Eddie's photographic journey--including his search for the "essence" of his images . He's a great writer and this piece is a short, illuminating read. You can see some of his work at his website: www.eddiesoloway.com.




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