Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nice and Easy

Its' good to slow down. As a rule I don't rush things, but sometimes I find I get so comfortable with a particular habit of working that I find I'm not taking the time to pay close attention to what I'm doing. There are times I think that habit is a detriment to my work. So occasionally I try to shake things up a bit, challenge the usual routines.

The other day I bought some silver based B&W film. The stuff I shot for twenty years before switching to a chromogenic B&W film. Just loading it into my forty year old Nikon F had a completely different feel. I dug out a #10 orange filter and my hand held light meter and went out for a walk. For a few minutes it was as if I was rediscovering photography all over again. It was fresh.

I messed up some frames when I didn't read the meter properly. It took some remembering and getting used to, but it didn't take long to get into the groove.

No auto modes, no auto advance, no perfectly, computer calculated exposures. It was just me thinking through the steps, making decisions, deciding just how I was going to put that light to that silver.

It was a good feeling…taking my time.

Photo: ©David W. Sumner

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Atget, Roses

Eugène Atget: 
French, Paris, 1922 - 1923 
Albumen print

"In order to make the "documents for artists" that the sign outside his door advertised, Atget had to consider what types of photographs would be useful to artists as source material. His clientele included textile designers, wallpaper designers, and painters, all of whom could have found this image of roses in bloom quite valuable."

Image and text courtesy The J. Paul Getty Museum

Sunday, March 13, 2011

From the Archives

I've been digging through the old stock image files and I thought it would be fun to post a series of images focused on a coastal theme.

Keep in mind these images were intended for magazine publication and one had to always be conscious of the fact that type would likely be placed somewhere in the image. So placing some good, clean, negative space in the frame was important.

Mt. Tam at sunset from Emeryville, California. ©1990 David W. Sumner

Rich, saturated colors and strong contrast were necessary elements for photo editors of the outdoor and nature publications.

Rodeo Beach, Marin, California. ©1988 David W. Sumner

Strong, warm side light from the setting sun is always a good bet for adding a little drama
to an ordinary scene.

Rodeo Beach, Marin, California. ©1988 David W. Sumner

Exposing for the scene's highlights and composing for the shadows increases the contrast and limits your color palette creating even more drama in the image.

Rodeo Beach, Marin, California. ©1988 David W. Sumner

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Finding Emmet Gowin

"We know more than we say…We tell those things that we feel have a chance poetically of fitting back into life." - Emmet Gowin

I'm embarrassed to say I only learned of Emmet Gowin today. An inspiration to anyone pursing a creative life and a photographer of considerable intellect and wisdom, Gowin recently retired after 30 plus years teaching at Princeton.

Articulate both visually and verbally, I found this interview clip from the 1980s rather moving and in fact profound.

I'd encourage any photographer who has yet to discover the world of Emmet Gowin to begin the exploration today.

Here are some links to other interviews and articles

Photo: © Ricardo Barros / courtesy pf Princeton Alumni Weekly

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What's the Story?

You know the old saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words." Well I've often wondered about that. I've seen photos that have left me speechless. No words come to mind that can communicate the power or drama expressed in some photographs. I figure those images are worth more than any number of words.

And there are images that seemingly tell a story, but what exactly that story is isn't always clear. The image above is a good example. What's the story here? I was there, I know what time it was, I know where it was, I know what happened just before and just after I snapped the shutter. I could tell you the story. But what story is this image telling by itself?

That's the real power of photography. It's not just about telling the truth or exposing the lies. It's about speaking a visual language that transcends all verbal communication. That's the power we wield when we pick up a camera. It's also the responsibility we bear as photographers.

Photo: ©2010 David W. Sumner