This interview series focuses on Japanese Photography. Watch established photographers who redefined the medium after World War II and still-emerging contemporary practitioners reflect on cultural landscapes and personal truths.
As is usually the case when I am referred to broad links like this one, I only have time to explore a little at a time. Today, I clicked on the first link and was truly moved by the Diorama Map project of Sohei Nishino. Nishino creates intricate map collages of cities using small section photographs. On his website are diorama maps of 21 cities including San Francisco (his latest, I presume), Havana, and Jerusalem. The planning, perseverance, and just plain grit it takes to complete one of these projects is impressive.
Many times during Jay’s workshop (again with Jay’s workshop!?) he mentioned Gregory Heisler, but it was not until today that I had a chance to study some of his images at GregoryHeisler.com. A master of the portrait he is most noted for this Time Magazine covers. He lists several portfolios on his website: QUIET, DISTINGUISHED, SIMPLE, STRANGE, VIBRANT, DYNAMIC, CONTEXTUAL, MINERS, BANJOISTS, TIME COVERS, OTHER. Now that is an eclectic grouping. I am dying to find out his relationship with Banjoists.
But do not get distracted as you work your way through the portfolios. You must make it down to the images in OTHER.
Sets his in-camera jpeg settings to Vivid and highest sharpness
Picks his best images and preferred exposure as the reference image for his assistant to match in print
Reviews images as 12×18 inches printed in house on a big Epson printer on Epson Luster paper
No retouching, no after capture cropping
The capabilities of today’s digital SLRs are completely incorporated into Jay’s technical approach to shooting. He shoots exclusively at ISO 1600 to keep the shutter speed high avoiding either camera motion blur or subject motion blur. On the Nikon D3s the noise is pretty imperceptible. I’m not sure that my Canon 5dMkII can quite match the D3s performance, but it is surely acceptable as I too shot at 1600 ISO for the week. He also shoots exclusively with the Nikon 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S lens and he uses the long range of the lens (150mm to 300mm) more often than the short range. He explains “he has telephoto eyes”. When you study his images, you see the pristine compositions that the narrow field of view allows him. When asked if he would shoot in B&W, he smiles and says “I see in color, even when I shot black and white film, I saw in color”.
Every other month I present a Digital Composition Challenge to the Thousand Oaks Photo Group. This months challenge is Using Light with the objective to have the photographers think about light and how it is contributing to the image. The challenge is to make photographs where light is a major contributor to the image’s story, mood, emotion, and purpose.
First some basics. We know that all photography is about the capture of light, but some photographs rely on strong and angular lighting to tell the story or convey the mood. Some photographs are about the light itself.
When thinking about using light, here are some questions to ask yourself:
Where is the light falling?
Why have you chosen to position the light (or position yourself to the light) at that angle?
What elements are lit?
Can you see the light? (not just the reflectance of the light)
Are there significant elements created by by shadow?
Would changing your position to the light change the story or impact?
Would increasing or decreasing the amount of light change the story or impact?
Tips for Using Light
When outdoors – shoot during early morning or late afternoon when the low angle of the sun creates strong directional light
Experiment with back light and side light
Experiment with low-light situations with a small, yet, poignant use of light
If using flash – move the flash off the camera
I always showcase images of my own and others. This month I showcased the images of the following photographers:
Last month myself and a few other fellow VCCC members braved the freeways, metro, and the heat to join a photo walk with the online photography magazine community of Faded & Blurred run by Jeffrey Saddoris and Nichole “Nikki” Rae. I was introduced to F&B, as it is known, by a couple of other young local photographers and communicators Frederick Van Johnson (This Week in Photography) and Ibarionex Perello (The Candid Frame). As is usual in life, one connection leads to another.
The day we walked it was hot, LA summer hot. We had just about succumbed to the heat when we decided to brave one more block into the back part of China Town. Past the food and cocktail demonstration, which was part of the Hot Summer Nights festival going on, we spied a plain white-walled storefront on 945 Chung King Road with the most amazing surfing images I’ve ever seen; big, beautiful B&W prints of amazing surf and surfers. It was the studio of Ed Freeman and he was showing his Surfing collection.
We looked and we commented and struck up a casual conversation. We were all struck by quality and detail of the images we were viewing. After the casual talk died down, I asked Ed a little more about how he made his living as a photographer. He explained that he did a lot of studio shooting and stock and taught courses on Photoshop that he called “Lying, Cheating, and Stealing”. Ok, I’m no stranger to using Photoshop to accentuate the mood and impact of an image. We all tweak the white balance, increase contrast and saturation, dodge and burn to change which portions of the image standout and direct the viewer. But as I continued to talk with Ed, he was talking about much more – so much more.
Stormy skies were added, waves accentuated, surfers moved and added, and compositions were recomposed. And I had no clue. At first I thought about his Photoshop mastery, these images are incredibly well executed. Quickly, however, I began to think more about his artistry. How did he know which sky to use, where to add another surfer, or how to exaggerate the waves? This is something that reflects the vision of the artist and not the skills of execution.
Ed puts it this way on his site: “This is not reportage photography; it is meant as fine art, and I’ve taken all the liberties in edit and retouching that are permitted to artists but forbidden to journalists.” In person he was more succinct as he retold one of the surfer’s reaction to the imagery; “This may not be what it looked like, but this is what it felt like”.