We are wrapping up another great tour with a tremendous group. Here is another B&W image from the dunes. I could shoot the dunes for a week straight, I’m addicted.
During our scouting time, we decided to see how close we could get to the Panamint Dunes. Unfortunately, not very close. It appears to be about a 2 mile walk after a rough 6 mile drive. We did not make the walk this time, but did get out a long lens to capture just a few long distance images. As luck would have it, a few clouds rolled in just for me and a blast of light lit up the dunes.
In Cole’s presentation, he spoke a lot about vision, a topic near and dear to his heart. He spoke about creating images that he saw in his minds eye and not what the camera captures. I think my image would be a good example. When I made this capture, I knew exactly what I would do in post to create the look I had in mind.
Cole and I agree on this topic. I have no interest in making images that look like what I saw, I am more interested in creating images that convey what I felt or saw in my imagination. I don’t want to be restrained by what others think I should do but rather create what will make my heart sing.
Today we started our tour with special guest Cole Thompson. It has been a joy to spend time with Cole whose work I have admired for quite some time. Cole gave a presentation today that was tremendous and very inspiring!
Our tour is focused on B&W photography, so I thought I’d post an image created during our scouting trip last week. This one pays homage to another favorite B&W photographer, Chuck Kimmerle.
Another example of patience. I spent a fair amount of time getting to know this girl, her younger sister and Mom. They were so polite, never asking for anything but very interested in what two americans were doing on their street. After struggling with my sparse Spanish and lots of giggles, I decided to share some things I had. They were very grateful. I then decided to photograph the wonderful wall next to their home when this young lady decided to play. I had a tripod on this morning as we were out in early light. I kept my finger on the shutter and fired of a series of images. Of course I was doing a happy dance with her and each of us laughing. She laughed even more when I showed her the images on the back of my camera. I can’t wait to search her family out next year and bring them some pictures of this fun moment. Below are a few more of the series.
Lazaro, the owner of this wonderful car is as tall or maybe even taller than me. A very nice young man who first found a few of us in his garage photographing the car and came down to chat with us. I was worried he might be annoyed as we were a step or two inside of his garage. Quite the opposite, he was thrilled to show off his car with its original engine. He then invited us back anytime and even asked if we wanted him to take the car out and park it on a specific street! The point of all of this is, if you are polite and engage, the Cuban people are wonderful and beyond accommodating.
My only regret is not taking a picture of Lazaro with his car. I’m just not tuned into those type of images like Mark Stevens is. Mark was one of our repeat participants and is doing a GREAT job on his blog. Be sure to take a look at his great work and read his wonderful stories.
The lead image was shot as a square, in camera. This is a great feature of the Fuji cameras. You can choose different formats and even shoot B&W at the same time if you want. As long as you choose to shoot RAW and JPEG, it preserves the native format (2×3) along with the color data in the RAW file while creating a jpeg in the format you choose. This is especially useful for pre-visualizing your images in a different format or B&W or both, while still keeping all the data if you need it in the RAW file should you want to go back to color or the native 2×3 format.
I’m including a new shot below that is pretty close to the original from two years ago that I still love. Both images made with the Fuji X-Pro1 with the Fuji 14mm prime at f/11, ISO 400.
Why Photo Celibacy?
A growing number of photographers are practicing what is known as “photo celibacy,” where one does not use the images of another as a guide to his/her own work. Cole Thompson, among others, practices this. Most photographers commonly view the work of others to gain insight and inspiration. I’m kind of in-between. My initial reaction is that one has to start somewhere — a technical/visual foundation if you will.
I think this works for Cole, but I submit that it was a slow process for him to get to this point. In other words, what he does today didn’t “just happen” by picking up a camera and going out to capture his “vision.” He takes it for granted now, but trust me he has looked and studied a lot of work before this celibacy stage of his photographic journey. I clearly agree with him that at some point one should distance his work from others if he wants it to stand out as uniquely his.
I get inspiration from others’ work, and therefore continue to learn from it rather than copying it. To make my point, put a group of photographers together in the same place and see how many different images/interpretations/visions come forth. For me, it’s not the location or copying of someone else’s vision. It’s about what you “see” while you’re in or near that same location. That is what vision is to me.
Years ago, I wanted to capture an image of Galen Rowell’s Horsetail Fall in Yosemite NP. I researched the time of year, time of day, direction of light, and lens choice(s) among other technical information. Even weather variations were checked to increase my percentage of success. I ended up with an image similar to Rowell’s. When I look at it now all I see HIS image — not mine. This puts an exclamation point on Thompson’s theory and practice. It’s a bad idea to study other photographer’s landscapes for the sole purpose of duplicating it. There is something that just doesn’t feel right by doing so.
However, I don’t consider looking at the work of other photographers as “contaminating” either. I see them as building blocks, thereby layering my knowledge and technique. We would not be human if we didn’t feel the angst when we see superb photographs. So much so that often we feel insecure and/or inadequate. This is NORMAL — and common! Another reason I agree to some extent with Cole Thompson’s philosophy.
So taking famous landmarks is fine in the beginning (as you build your foundation), but working to find alternatives and originality — your vision — remains the ultimate objective of an artist. To illustrate my point here (below) is an alternative image of the classic shot of the alpenglow on El Capitan in winter light (above).
I’m including a story I wrote about the making of this image (below) as I believe it helps convey my thoughts.
A Reflection of Yosemite
Many of Yosemite National Park’s landmarks—Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and Glacier Point—I have photographed on many occasions. But on this cold December afternoon in 1988 I wanted to capture the stillness of this renowned national park. I found it when I stopped at Valley View in Yosemite Valley’s west end, a tourist favorite. I was very fortunate to have the place to myself.
By then the Merced River was cloaked in its familiar deep-blue shade leaving two of Yosemite’s most identifiable landmarks, El Capitan and Cathedral Rocks, glowing in magnificent light. From experience I knew this type of light is fleeting and rare. I also knew instinctively how little time remained before this light would vanish and immediately searched for compositions that symbolized what I felt.
Scanning the river through my camera’s viewfinder I noticed a colorful spot of reflected light. Isolating an area no larger than a common sheet of binder paper I found a granite boulder jutting upwards through the surface of the river surrounded by plates of ice. A leaf nestled gently into a shallow notch in the protruding rock, seemingly frozen there in time. The combinations of light reflected from the precipice of El Capitan and the cobalt-blue sky bathed the now-silent Merced River in breathtaking contrasts of warm and cool colors.
This memorable moment of solitude ended abruptly when a car appeared in the parking area behind me. A couple got out to admire the view that lay before them marveling at the golden glow atop El Capitan as it crept slowly up its enormous rock face.
As I worked in the shade they became aware of my presence near the river’s edge. In an attempt to avoid an intrusion on my privacy I heard him quietly ask her, “What’s he taking a picture of?”
I glanced back and noticed the woman standing behind me on her tiptoes looking over my shoulder from a short distance away, apparently puzzled by what I saw that she might have missed. Her curiosity drew her in even closer as she stood silently behind me in the bitter cold winter shade.
When the sun set and the sky turned its inevitable gloomy gray the couple walked back to the warmth of their car. Once again he asked her, “What was that guy taking a picture of anyway?”
“Nothing really.” she said. “It was only a reflection.”
© Dan Sniffin – June 6, 2001
Dan Sniffin my dear friend and tour partner. To see more of his stunning photography, please visit his newly redesigned website. www.dansniffinphoto.com
Fuji X-E2 – 35mm 1.4 @ f/4
You might recognize this young boy, he is the same boy that was in the triptych posted a few days ago. After photographing him I wasn’t leaving, he was just too much fun and I wanted to see what else might happen. As I stepped back to the other side of the street, a young woman rode up on a bicycle and parked it right here! I’m definitely not going anywhere now. I start making images of the bike and who comes out of the door? The boy! Click,click,click.
Once again, I’m conflicted about color or B&W. Unlike the last time I asked where I really did like the color better, this time I could go either way. What say you? B&W version below.
On our first day we stumbled upon this wonderful car on a great street in old Havana. The recent rain added just the right touch.
For processing, I used Alien Skin Exposure 5 and in this case was done! I think the film look for images from Cuba is perfect and Exposure 5 rocks for ease of use. And, you can customize the look right in their awesome interface too. I have a video tutorial for Exposure 5 here.
A thought with regard to the process of image capture. When you stumble upon a scene as good as this or one the resonates with you for whatever reason, WORK THE SCENE!! Do not just take one picture and walk away. Below you’ll find two more takes. Two more right answers but ultimately I liked the lead image best. I took one at a different angle and the other without the wall on the right. Notice the different color in the last one. Different film choice in Exposure 5.
We took the group back to a favorite location with a wonderful staircase (see detail shot below). On the second floor where the stair shot is, we found this man working diligently to remove layers of paint from the old doors. He worked relentlessly as a group photographed the stairs. A few of us decided to photograph him but not until we had been on the floor for quite some time. By the time we asked permission he was comfortable with us there and pretty much ignored us as we made our photographs.
Oh and by the way, in the last post I loved the color version too. I was just curious as to what others thought. :)
Fuji X-E2 – 18-55mm at 31, f/8 ISO 800 1/340
This image was made on our last day in Trinidad. Matt and I went out together, just the two of us. It really is a good idea to go out in small groups as it allows for scenes like these to unfold. Large groups feel like the paparazzi has arrived and the mood changes. Matt and I were on this street for quite a long time as it was rich with opportunities. Like the shoe shine scene, the woman acknowledged me as soon as she saw me, however, she was busy doing her morning chores. The Cuba people take great pride in what they have and are constantly cleaning. I was in love with all that was going on in this scene, so I kept pressing the shutter as she cleaned the wall, the window, the bars around the window, etc, etc…. and then….. the neighbor stuck his head out for just a few seconds, THANK YOU!
So the final question was, would it work better as a monochrome image or do I leave it in color? I still can’t decide. B&W included below.