PDA

View Full Version : How did you take that picture?


HBC
12-28-2004, 17:43
I read once that Cartier-Bresson when asked to view a photographers porfolio, he would ask to see the contact sheets, to see more clearly how the photographer worked.I truly think that many of you guys here have great talent, the level of photography in this forum IMHO far exceeds the work in other photography forums. So that we may benefit from this,how about a gallery in wich the member posting would upload a contact sheet and then choose one photo and breifly
explain how he came to take such shot,I don't know if this is clear but if any one can better express this please help.

back alley
12-28-2004, 17:47
a few of the guys did this, here, a while back.
i can't remember the name of the thread though.

there is a book, i think it's called 'contact', that does this also.

joe

back alley
12-28-2004, 18:26
found it! (http://www.rangefinderforum.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=423&highlight=contact+sheets)

HBC
12-28-2004, 18:34
Thank you backalley

Kris
12-28-2004, 19:27
Do you guys take a sequence of photos all the time to get those cracker shot? I almost never do that. If I ever managed to get a cracker street shot, that's 99.5% luck.

RML
12-28-2004, 20:43
I hardly ever take more than one shot. If I take more than one shot it usuaully is because a) the scene changed into a "better" shot, b) I decided to change aperture/ shutter speed/ DOF, or when c) I screwed up the first shot (not focusing correctly, for example).

Sometimes I come back at a scene hours/ days/ months/ years later and (unwittingly) shoot the same scene again.

My keepers are usually one of a kind and the result of quick thinking, luck, knowing my camera and a sense of what might make a good shot. My failures are due to either or all of these factors lacking; sometimes I'm slow-witted (especially early in the morning), have run out of luck (wrong plac, wrong time), forgot the basic handling of my camera (forgetting to focus, removing the lens cap, etc.), or just don't have "the eye" that day.

jlw
12-28-2004, 20:56
Originally posted by HBC
I read once that Cartier-Bresson when asked to view a photographers porfolio, he would ask to see the contact sheets, to see more clearly how the photographer worked.

Yeah, but what about the famous photographer (don't remember whom) who said, "contact sheets should be as personal as a toothbrush"?

Seriously, one problem I always had with contact sheets (back in the days of golden youth when I was able to shoot a lot more b&w film than I do now) was that while I could "read" them, non-photographers generally could not!

So when I wanted to show a batch of pictures to someone -- editor, portrait subject, etc. -- so s/he could pick one or two for final prints, it was always a struggle: Should I show the contacts, even though the viewer was likely to say, "Gee, they all look so [dark/light/blurry/etc.]"? Or should I pick out a bunch of candidates and then go to the huge amount of extra effort to make work prints? Or should I pay a lab to make proof prints of all of them, despite the cost and the usually lousy quality?

Digital has made this a bit easier, but not much: I can show the photos on a laptop, zooming in on selected ones so we can check the fine details. But when I'm the only one doing the viewing, that process still isn't as quick or as informative as going through a wet-print contact sheet with a loupe and a grease pencil. In fact, that was always one of my favorite parts of the photography process!

(I can print sheets of my digital images, but it's just not the same! I don't care what the reviews say -- when I look at my Epson R800 "contacts" with a loupe, I see ink dots, not additional image detail!)

Just to drag some rangefinder interest into this discussion, attached is a pseudo-contact from this evening's batch of R-D1 shots. One thing it shows is that intent makes a difference in choosing photos from the contact.

Of the shots, I liked the last one (inset) the best -- I was amused by the contrast between the large man (the choreographer) demonstrating the step, and the small dancer watching. But if I were picking a photo to give to the girl in the gold tutu, I would probably pick a different image, such as one of the ones in the first row.

jlw
12-28-2004, 21:06
Originally posted by Kris
Do you guys take a sequence of photos all the time to get those cracker shot? I almost never do that. If I ever managed to get a cracker street shot, that's 99.5% luck.

As you can see, I usually try to "work" a promising photo situation as much as I can! Usually there are a lot of constraints (where I can stand, direction of the light, etc.) as well as several variables I can control (lens choice, direction, timing, etc.)

So, coming up with a picture I like is a lot like solving an equation: just keep plugging in different values until you get an answer.

Sometimes it takes a lot of trials - and sometimes you thought one answer was right when you were shooting, but then find out when you're looking at the shots that a different answer actually was better! (I was pretty happy with my first shot in the group above -- but if I hadn't stuck with it I wouldn't have gotten the last one.)

Doug
12-28-2004, 22:16
Adding to the humor of the inset image is your own posture... :D

Whether I 'work' a situation or grab isolated images is completely variable on the circumstances. I often don't get the chance for more than one or two shots.

rover
12-29-2004, 00:23
I am not that organized, nor do I usually get contact sheets. Here is the first page of those I had made for my Halloween series though.

taffer
12-29-2004, 07:55
Nice one Rover ! I liked very much some of your Halloween shots, spooky, odd and surreal.

That is... perfect for my taste :D

JLW... is that the 'POP' effect ? ;) Fantastic series btw...

peter_n
12-29-2004, 08:59
Perhaps one of the most famous contact sheets ever - the sequence includes the (edited) execution of a Viet Cong prisoner named Nguyen Van Lam and was taken by Eddie Adams, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1968 for the shot. The picture was hugely influential in American and world politics. There are various stories about Van Lam; that he was a hit-man who had just murdered eight South Vietnamese, a double-agent, a Vietcong regular. Link to an article on the publication of this picture (http://www.digitaljournalist.org/issue0410/faas.html). (Eddie Adams died this last September.)

Russ
12-29-2004, 17:00
Originally posted by HBC
I read once that Cartier-Bresson when asked to view a photographers porfolio, he would ask to see the contact sheets, to see more clearly how the photographer worked.I truly think that many of you guys here have great talent, the level of photography in this forum IMHO far exceeds the work in other photography forums. So that we may benefit from this,how about a gallery in wich the member posting would upload a contact sheet and then choose one photo and breifly
explain how he came to take such shot,I don't know if this is clear but if any one can better express this please help.

In the fantastic little book by Bill Jay, "On Being A Photographer" Bill Jay and David Hurn, discuss this very topic of looking at proofsheets, as opposed to one singular image. It's a great little book. A must have one!

Russ

back alley
12-29-2004, 17:11
i found that book i mentioned previously.

it's called 'contact sheet', the secret of creative photography by al gruen. it was first published in 1982.

i have not looked at it in years so i'll have to take another look at it now.

joe

don sorsa
12-30-2004, 07:13
This discussion and the links to the other thread and external sites with contact sheets are great. Contact sheets teach me about photography because they demonstrate different ways of looking at and choosing subjects. (It's also gratifying to see pros with bad exposure and oof shots!) I also appreciate seeing alternative solutions to my never-ending workflow challenges. Finally, now I have a good excuse, I mean reason, to buy a couple more books on photography! Thanks all!!

taffer
12-30-2004, 10:59
Russ, any specially recommended source for the book ? I've gone to lenswork and seems to be out of print right now...

... just when I wanted to order it :p

Russ
12-30-2004, 15:49
Originally posted by taffer
Russ, any specially recommended source for the book ? I've gone to lenswork and seems to be out of print right now...

... just when I wanted to order it :p

Hang on, I'll call Laura or Maureen and ask them. Will let you know. I may even have an extra copy.

Russ

Russ
12-30-2004, 15:56
Originally posted by taffer
Russ, any specially recommended source for the book ? I've gone to lenswork and seems to be out of print right now...

... just when I wanted to order it :p

Taffer

I just spoke with Maureen. They have plenty in stock. However, "On Letting Go Of The Camera" is selling fast. So order that one at the same time. On Letting Go of The Camera, is the better of the two, but both are very good, and cheap! Grab them while you can!

Russ

jpmccormac
12-30-2004, 16:15
Originally posted by Kris
Do you guys take a sequence of photos all the time to get those cracker shot? I almost never do that. If I ever managed to get a cracker street shot, that's 99.5% luck.

You are not alone. Harry Callahan, the famous Detroit photographer, said, "A good photograph is mostly luck, at least for me."

Another quote:
"I wish more people felt that photography was an adventure the same as life itself and felt that their individual feelings were worth expressing. To me, that makes photography more exciting."
Harry Callahan

Hang in there.

taffer
12-31-2004, 00:32
Originally posted by Russ
Taffer

I just spoke with Maureen. They have plenty in stock. However, "On Letting Go Of The Camera" is selling fast. So order that one at the same time. On Letting Go of The Camera, is the better of the two, but both are very good, and cheap! Grab them while you can!

Russ

Here I go Russ !!! Thanks !

don sorsa
12-31-2004, 07:49
Thanks Russ, I'm folowing in Oscar's footsteps! BTW, Harry Callahan said good photography is mostly luck, eh? Then he must have had decades of luck! Ya know, I think of him as an Art Institute photog, though, more than a Detroit guy. Must be my Chicago bias!

chmeyer
12-31-2004, 09:20
Since this thread started with a paraphrase of Cartier-Bresson...
and moved a little into a discussion of one shot versus a series of shots....
I'm wondering what you folks think Cartier-Bresson was trying to do with his photography.
Is it all about a fleeting moment of chance or luck with one shot? or do you think his "decisive moment" was much more deliberate? In terms of joining the mind, the heart, a trigger reflex and composition together to say something significant.

Many photo agencies won't hire a photographer based on a portfolio. They want to view contact sheets to see how the artist achieved the best shot.

I think if I limited my shooting to one shot every time I raised the camera, I'd quickly get frustrated with how unlucky I am.
Looking back at my contact sheets reminds me how hard I have to work to get what I would consider the decisive moment. Chris

peter_n
12-31-2004, 12:41
Hi Chris and welcome to the forum. :) No luck - HCB produced too many great images over a very long time period for him always to be in the right place at the right time by happenstance.

What he had, apart from a tremendous eye for composition, was the ability to anticipate what might happen next in a scene. In your terms I think he was "deliberate", he often stuck around a scene of interest to see what might transpire. He apparently took an absolutely massive number of photographs but was a killer editor, a very small percentage of his output was published. He worked very hard and only published the tip of the iceberg which I think is the way it should be.

When you consider the number of stunning images he produced, it makes you wonder how many thousands of photographs he must have taken in his life.

HBC
12-31-2004, 14:41
I started this thread thinking of a posssible veihicle here in RFF to benefit from what i consider some great photography, some what like an online workshop, as I love photography I also would love to have an insight into how one photographs from and asthetical and technica point of view. for instance I would love to hear from Allen Gillman, Backalley, Peter_n, Ed Leveckis,Rover,RML and many others, on how they see and put their vision unto film and paper.

Russ
12-31-2004, 15:06
Originally posted by HBC
I started this thread thinking of a posssible veihicle here in RFF to benefit from what i consider some great photography, some what like an online workshop, as I love photography I also would love to have an insight into how one photographs from and asthetical and technica point of view. for instance I would love to hear from Allen Gillman, Backalley, Peter_n, Ed Leveckis,Rover,RML and many others, on how they see and put their vision unto film and paper.

I do an awful lot of street shooting. I usually just wander about. However, there are many times when I see a potential person, or event, that I feel will become something. In that case, I hang around, follow, etc. Until it does happen. And yes, anticipation is very important. Also, you'd be surprised how often you can just grab a pint of focusing fluid, take a seat, and let the shot come to you.

Russ

Russ
12-31-2004, 15:09
Originally posted by Russ
I do an awful lot of street shooting. I usually just wander about. However, there are many times when I see a potential person, or event, that I feel will become something. In that case, I hang around, follow, etc. Until it does happen. And yes, anticipation is very important. Also, you'd be surprised how often you can just grab a pint of focusing fluid, take a seat, and let the shot come to you.

Russ

An example of waiting for the shot, to come to me. (excuse the crappy scan)

Russ

peter_n
01-01-2005, 08:13
A pint of focusing fluid definitely helps, no question about that! ;) To respond to your question HBC, unfortunately in my case there is no set methodology. I have very little time for any extended photo sessions, it's only when I go away for a vacation that I really have time to shoot. I spend my Sunday afternoons at a youth orchestra rehearsal and I have a project running there but those subjects are "captive" so to speak.

However FWIW my thoughts are that first you need a "seeing eye" - a visual sensibiliity to be able to see a juxtaposition of objects, light and shade in a very brief period of time that when printed, gives meaning to the whole. You do need to be looking so it isn't something that happens by chance, or so it seems to me.

When people are involved the anticipatory instinct is employed to (a) stay with the scene, and (b) position yourself for the optimal viewpoint of the scene while at the same time checking where the light is coming from and making camera adjustments to deal with it. (Easier done than said. :) )

The final piece is the technical side which, to be honest, I tend to take for granted. I try to use just a couple of films and I have a completely manual camera (although I would like one with aperture priority AE) and a small set of lenses that I'm used to.

Russ
01-01-2005, 09:23
Originally posted by peter_n
A pint of focusing fluid definitely helps, no question about that! ;)

When people are involved the anticipatory instinct is employed to (a) stay with the scene, and (b) position yourself for the optimal viewpoint of the scene while at the same time checking where the light is coming from and making camera adjustments to deal with it. (Easier done than said. :) )

The final piece is the technical side which, to be honest, I tend to take for granted. I try to use just a couple of films and I have a completely manual camera (although I would like one with aperture priority AE) and a small set of lenses that I'm used to.

Peter

Aperture priority is great! Love it.

Russ

back alley
01-01-2005, 09:25
...as I love photography I also would love to have an insight into how one photographs from and asthetical and technica point of view.

i'm probably the last person who could speak to this with any intelligence or authority.

i like to keep things simple.
at most i carry 2 cameras if i feel the need for 2 different focal lengths, say 35/75 or 50/100. mostly i head out with 1 camera and one lens.
i pick a film and stay with it, for awhile. i use xp2 now. i have used ilford films mostly, concentrating on the delta line in the past.
i like grain and hope to go back to a faster film soon. that will depend on when i get a film scanner.

as to actually shooting...i use a handheld meter. i take some readings to get a feel for the light and shadow part of the day and set my camera accordingly. i change aperture depending on what i hope the shot will look like. i'm an aperture priority kind of guy.
for the street, i mostly keep moving, looking for something that catches my eye. i keep the lens set to around 10 feet and focus from there. sometimes i am sneaky and try to shoot like i'm not there and other times i engage my subject with a smile and a glance at my camera, as if to ask 'is it ok?'.

as to 'seeing' or 'a vision', well i have no idea, honestly.
i sometimes think i should know more about this, have a philosophy about seeing but i don't. i'm more like a little kid that reacts to bright lights and movement.

i look at alot of photos, from books & mags to the net, try to figure out what i like about a particular shot, hope to be emotionally impacted.
i love it when i see a shot and catch my breath and wish i had taken it.

ok, i've gone on way too long and had nothing to say.

joe

RML
01-01-2005, 10:46
I'm less of a people photographer; I am just not too comfortable with engaging my subjects unless I know them already. When doing street shots I tend to shoot from the hip (inconspicious way of shooting) or be as open and blatant about as I can be (and "pretending"to be shooting something else, or just stand there and let people move into view).

Howver, when I'm shooting other scenes, that don't or hardly include people, I just happen to "see" the shot in my mind. Of course I observe my surroundings and will walk over in a direction that I think will give me good opportunities. Than I start looking around, sometimes purposefully, other times less so (usually when I'm walking around with wife and/or daughter, who will demand my attention every so often). Shots happen to materialise in any form: from distant vistas to footprints in the snow, from cloud formations to shadows cast by a fence, from glorious sunrise to street sign in the rain.

For me a good shot often just happens to come along my way. I try to help my luck by deciding on good locations, but just as often I find great shots when I least expect them.

I try not to philosophise about my style or my shooting methodes too much. I stick mostly to gear and film I know: I only use one type of film; I mostly use my Bessa R, the CL and the M2; and I've come to know these cameras by heart so I know how to compensate the light readings I get.

I don't think in colour or B&W as others report to do; I think in terms of scenes and moods. I'm also drawn to emotions. I find it hard to capture those, though, as I'm often too shy to stick my lens in the faces of the people involved; I don't want to intrude on their moment of joy, pain, sorrow or luck. I make a bad PJ or people photog. :)

Does all this make sense? :)

Doug
01-01-2005, 16:33
Sounds reasonable, Remy... and maybe for this new year you can find gentle ways to overcome the confrontational feelings! I'm working on that too...

I'm taking more people-pictures, and the situations tend to be fleeting and fluid. So compositions rely more on intuition than thoughtful planning.

I believe this can be "trained" by looking at a lot of pictures and thinking about what is pleasing and interesting, and what is not. Then, faced with the scene, the subconscious judgment can have an "educated" effect! Comments?

chmeyer
01-01-2005, 19:26
This thread comes at the perfect time for me.
I've been shooting digital almost completely since 1999.
I just purchased a rangefinder camera and one lens so I could start practicing the craft of photography again.
It's something I felt I was missing.
The immediacy of digital imaging took away much of the magic of photography for me.
The choice to get a basic rangefinder camera was one I made with the purpose of eliminating extra buttons, menus, white balance, histograms and all that other technical stuff that I felt muted my ability to apply the more subtile technique of a unique personal vision.
It's very interesting to hear of the variety of ways each of us approach subject matter and then technically execute the photo.
I would say that the variety and unique personal vision each photographer brings to the viewfinder every time he or she frames a photo is what makes forums like this one so great.
Most of the time when I'm inspired by a photo, the inspiration is less about technique used to capture the image and more about the emotion the photo evokes.
My emotional reaction may be triggered by a stunning composition, dramatic lighting, a moment between subjects or a shared moment between a single subject and the photographer.

Peter_n hit the nail on the head when suggesting that Cartier-Bresson's anticipation of the moment, combined with a devotion to time spent patiently waiting for elements to fall into place as well as weeding out the shots that he didn't want the world to see helped shape what many of us consider some of the greatest photographs ever made.
For me it's about practice....the more I shoot with my new camera, the more intuitive the technical aspects become and the more I can concentrate and capturing moments, chasing light and making photos that matter to me.
Chris

FrankS
01-01-2005, 19:47
Doug, well said! I believe you are correct. The sub-conscious and intuition play a very important role in photography, in selecting the subject matter, the framing of the subject, and in deciding on the correct moment to release the shutter. As you said, educating yourself with viewing and analyzing images provides the basis for your sub-conscious/intuition to act.

Originally posted by Doug
Sounds reasonable, Remy... and maybe for this new year you can find gentle ways to overcome the confrontational feelings! I'm working on that too...

I'm taking more people-pictures, and the situations tend to be fleeting and fluid. So compositions rely more on intuition than thoughtful planning.

I believe this can be "trained" by looking at a lot of pictures and thinking about what is pleasing and interesting, and what is not. Then, faced with the scene, the subconscious judgment can have an "educated" effect! Comments?

jlw
01-01-2005, 20:11
Originally posted by chmeyer
Since this thread started with a paraphrase of Cartier-Bresson...
and moved a little into a discussion of one shot versus a series of shots....
I'm wondering what you folks think Cartier-Bresson was trying to do with his photography.
Is it all about a fleeting moment of chance or luck with one shot? or do you think his "decisive moment" was much more deliberate?

Several years ago I wrote a review of a Cartier-Bresson exhibit for a local artsy weekly, giving me an excuse to do some research into his working methods. My conclusion was that basically he was trying to work within the "modernist" art philosophy of the era in which he grew up, and that his "decisive moment" concept referred to the moment in which everything comes together to make a good photograph, rather than simply trying to work in fleeting moments. (You've probably read that he studied painting with Andre Lhote, who was a Cubist; cubists believed that their art could coalesce multiple dimensions of objects as well as multiple instants of time; I suspect this idea may have helped inspire Cartier-Bresson.)

One famous HCB picture in which his studied approach can be seen is the one of the man leaping over the puddle, with the billboard in the background showing a figure in a similar pose.

It's easy to see how HCB, walking around looking for things to photograph, would have spotted this puddle and billboard and realized that pedestrians would have to leap across the puddle and would naturally assume the same position as the billboard figure. From there, all he had to do was find a vantage point that offered a good composition (all the elements in this picture are well-designed to direct the eye from the leaping man, to the poster, to the spectators in the background who constitute the "audience" for the leaping man's "performance") and then wait for the moment when all the elements came together.

From this we can see that although HCB's method depended on the ability to seize the moment, it also was a very studied approach which depended on the ability to recognize a situation that had the potential to produce a striking picture, then wait for the time when elements would come together to realize that potential.

It's a lot like the method of the big-game hunter, who must find a situation in which he can get a good shot at the prey, then wait for the prey to appear. It's probably more than coincidence that Cartier-Bresson, then aged 22, spent a year as a hunter in the West African bush country before he caught a fever, returned to France to recuperate, and then took up photography seriously.

If you're familiar with John Loengard's book Pictures Under Discussion, you might recognize this as similar to his idea that sometimes pictures are built from the center outward, and other times from the outside inward. Building from the center outward is a concept with which most of us are familiar: we find an interesting subject and then wait for it to be seen in an interesting context. Working from the outside inward is the notion that sometimes you find an environment or situation that has the potential for good photography, then wait for a subject to enter it.

I often have to work in the outside-in way because I often find myself in visually cluttered, poorly-lit environments; the only way to get a good picture is to aim the camera at a spot (sometimes the only spot) in which the light is favorable and the surroundings aren't too complicated, then hope that something interesting will happen within this spot.

To keep this subject RF-germane, let me point out that RF cameras are especially good for this type of outside-in photography -- you can see outside the framelines with most lenses, so it's easier to anticipate when a subject is about to come into your "stage set."

Doug
01-01-2005, 21:12
Interesing commentary, jlw... I'll have to work on that recognition and patient waiting.

Russ
01-01-2005, 22:41
"The best art comes from the heart. Once technique and craft can be successfully used, the artist's real challenge begins-finding and producing from the heart. The next time the flock veers left, try turning to the right just for fun and leave the rest of the herd. Wander off. Look for yourself. And if you find it difficult to make a decent photograph, know you are on the correct path that leads to the most important artwork of your life."