thinking with pictures

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quoting for photos

A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense, and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.
Ansel Adams

I do not object to retouching, dodging. or accentuation as long as they do not interfere with the natural qualities of photographic technique.
Alfred Stieglitz

No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it, and is sure of his method and composition.
Claude Monet

Seeing these and others in print caused me to seek more online. The result is a compilation of quotes by Photographers or about Photography.


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more than pointing and shooting

A friend paraphrased Ansel Adams when he gave workshops and confined his own shooting with the students to a small camera, maybe analogous to the Point-and-Shoot camera of our time. At the end of the training and practice, everyone’s work would be displayed and judged. If anyone beat his score, then he’d refund their workshop payment. But none ever did beat him. All this is to say that the eye or vision of the photographer grows with experience, practice and command of one’s tools all along the workflow from preparing to set off with gear, to capturing, to producing and presenting the finished work.

Numerous essays and postings fromĀ Alain Briot at develop this idea of one’s deepening vision and extending the range of one’s technical powers, as well.

To begin with there is the intersection of date, location, time of day and position relative to the sun or other light source. Then there is choice of subject, its composition (lens, lighting, framing, connection or separation from adjacent and surrounding context), and moment of capture. Overlaying these tangible factors they may well be less obvious but still significant context of news value, cultural meaning, or social significance to the subject immediately and personally, or as a symbol or illustration for a more general expression; or even at the most abstract, an overlying meaning that is more abstract of all, derived from the play of color and form, texture and shading.

And so, while aiming the lens and pressing the shutter can produce a visual memento of a subject at a particular place and time, there is surely much more that goes into the decision to be at the right place and the right time before composing, recording and finally producing a vision of the scene.

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equipment and one’s eye

The truism that a workman’s tools determines how and what he interacts with in the world can be seen for camera work in a few ways. (1) One’s screen size alters the scale at which one can perceive detail. Having a digital camera with 5 cm LCD allows crude viewing compared to one that is 10 cm. And reviewing images on a tablet is more restrictive than a big-screen TV or large monitor, muchless the scale of a cinema projector. (2) The same change in vision of what one sees is also a function of sensor size. The smallest sensors of digital camera toys capture a crude likeness of a scene, whereas most of the low-end Point-and-Shoot cameras from the big makers can produce fine snapshots or even small enlargements when set to bigger capture (file) sizes. The pro-sumer and professional cameras have sensors many times the surface area of these other devices. The resulting range of light values and subtlety of color amplifies the vividness and tactile impression one can make on a viewer. By knowing one’s gear and its limitations, one frames the world of photo and video opportunities accordingly. (3) Lens of choice also shapes one’s vision, not only in terms of magnification, but also the relationship of foreground, middle and background. A standard or ‘normal’ lens approximates the relationships of the human eye, while a wide-angle exaggerates the space between near and middle foreground. A telephoto foreshortens the space between near and middle background. The “speed” of a given lens (how far open the aperture can go, thus permitting low-light photography at speeds faster than a lens without the same aperture) also figures into one’s vision of what could or could not be captured visually. In sum it is important to know one’s gear intimately so that response to a given situation is automatic and well practiced. And while the equipment does not ‘make’ a photo, it surely colors the vision of the person who ‘plays’ it.