PLEASE Watch Your Step

PLEASE Watch Your Step

I’ve been making my way through the writings of David duChemin and I also was able to to clear time to catch several hours of David’s recent workshop Vision Driven Photography broadcast on CreateLIVE. In his writings and speaking, David unwaveringly guides you through his process to which he has ascribed the pithy tag-line “gear is good, but vision is better”. His message challenges you to think about what you want to say with the image and use that information to guide how you will frame, capture, and process. Oh, that sounds too easy. His message is really to think about what you feel in a place and use your emotions to determine how to frame, capture, and process. What do you feel? Oh how we resist that question.

So what was I feeling about this place as before I clicked the shutter and how did I incorporate these feelings into my process? David does this list thing. He lists a series of things and ideas as he walks and looks and discovers. David actually writes these down and refers to them over a course of several days of shooting and again during the processing. I used a mental note only.

Here is my list for this place:

  • Danger
  • Vertigo
  • Signal Anxiety (that anxiety that causes you to be cautious when you should be)
  • Incoming tide, Angry seas
  • Humor (is that sign really necessary? Why PLEASE? Why not “Danger, steep steps”?

And here is how I used this list to influence the Frame, Capture, and Process

What did this tell me about how to frame the image?

  • Accentuate the steepness of the stairs with a wide angle, downward looking shot
  • Align the image off kilter to help convey the off-balance feeling of vertigo
  • Get some froth from the ocean and it would be best if I can have the rock showing too.
  • The sign must be in the image and perfectly focused

What did this tell me about how to capture the image?

  • Use a wide angle and get close to the top step to accentuate the depth perception
  • Focus on the sign (I use center point focusing and then recompose) but use a small aperture for full depth of field
  • With the right timing, a long exposure will capture a lot of froth, use my ND Filter to give me the capability for and even longer exposure.
  • Use a tripod (due to long exposure)

What did this tell me about how to process the image?

  • I needed contrast between the froth of the ocean and the rest of the image to make sure that it stood out
  • Needed to make sure the sign stands out appropriately possibly lightening it if needed
  • White balance should be a little cold and angry

To say that all these points were clear in my mind as they happened would be not completely honest, but there was enough consciousness to drag me in the right direction. Do you agree?