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Talking About Photographs, Inspiration, Jan 23rd

Talking About Photographs

I hope everyone made it through the week alright. With both the inauguration anxiety and last Monday (the third Monday in January) being the most depressing day of the year, I’m guessing photography may not been on the forefront of your minds lately.

It’s a tough time of year for photography, but hopefully with these weeks out of the way we can push ourselves in the right direction for 2021, even with the remaining obstacles.

And if you’re not able to shoot right now, please share some old photographs with us and definitely check in when you can and add some comments.

(On a related note, I was talking with a group member last night about commenting and just the difficulty of giving constructive criticism. We’ll touch on that as one aspect of next week’s post because it’s a really difficult but important thing to do in a virtual environment).

I thought I’d go through some of my old photographs for fun and keep this post focused on the photographs themselves and share some commentary about them. Going forward, I’m going to do some regular posts called Talking About Photographs. I had to choose mine this week because I just had the idea, but going forward I’m going to collect photographs from the community that I want to talk about as I come across them.

You’ve no doubt already seen many of these, but they were ones where I thought some commentary would be important and fun to add.

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Building a Cohesive Vision – Inspiration, Jan 16th

Building a Cohesive Vision

*A few quick updates – please make sure to fill out the time poll at the top of your group stream if you would like to attend small group events at some point. We’ll talk about scheduling those after Jan 20th.

*I also moved the top resources and classes to the events/resources page to make them easier to find – so check that page out when you get the chance.

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There will be a lot more written about this topic in the future as this will just scratch the surface. But after the comments on last weeks Dreamlike post, it seems like seeing those loose groupings helped many of you start to see the potential in thinking this way with your work.

And if you have the time this winter, I highly suggest going through the editing class as you will really be able to see these ideas in action.

Thinking about your work in a cohesive way can be a long process to develop, but I think it is one of the most rewarding aspects of photography.

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Dreamlike, Inspiration, Jan 9th

Dreamlike

Here are the photos that you all sent in for the Dreamlike challenge. And make sure to click the photos to see them larger because the verticals are cropped in the thumbnails.

I’m going to let the photos do the overall talking, but I was impressed and really intrigued with the variety of work sent in. This was not an easy challenge. There is black and white, color, abstract, environmental, and people scenes, scenes from in the home, blurry or hazy photos, sharp photos. And most importantly, there’s a lot of feeling here.

The first three sets you see here I grouped myself as small themes to show how you can build a feeling and narrative (and there will be more on that in next week’s post).

You can see how with time one could create a whole consistent body of work that has this idea and feel, if they wanted to. It’s just a mixture of getting out there, looking for the right moments, being in the right frame of mind, editing, and sequencing.

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An Editing Class for the New Year! – Inspiration, Jan 2nd

Congrats on making it through 2020. I know it wasn’t easy on any of us, and here’s to getting through the winter and having things look up after that.

First is to please email me anywhere from 1-5 of your dreamlike photos by Jan 5th to [email protected].

Pardon if you’ve noticed any errors with my notifications and through your email. Those should be fixed now but occasional development still continues on custom changes, so if you notice any issues, please let me know!

Also, I added an Instagram link area to your profile. If you’d like people to follow you there, please fill that out and you can then look through other’s profiles to find the links once they fill them out. You can also click this link and click ‘follow’ to follow the #homephotosalon tag (and if you feel like it, please tag your photos with the hashtag!) https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/homephotosalon/

An Editing Class for the New Year

I just ported over a 3-and-a-half-hour editing course from my website over here called Editing and Putting Together a Portfolio in Street Photography. You can also find the link on the left column bar of the website and in the top links of the Inspiration panel. The course includes every aspect I can think of all the way from importing photos, organizing, editing, examples of my editing, printing, creating book mockups, going over a few of my projects, and evaluating the editing of five photographers.

You can find the class in your right profile area under ‘Courses’ or on ‘Top Posts’ in the Inspiration Section. The class should have you entirely up to speed with editing in only 3.5 hours.

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New Years Photo Resolutions – Inspiration, Dec 26th

Pardon the repeat photos from last week, but you’ll see why.

Happy Holidays and upcoming New Year!

If you haven’t checkout out last week’s shooting in quiet areas post, here’s the link. Make sure to check out the comments below as there are so many good ones. I really enjoyed everyone’s thoughts – they’re fantastic. I’ve been so pleased with the commenting so far so keep it coming!

Next, for those of you who haven’t been able to see Vin’s fantastic family set, she created a profile album so everyone could see. Here’s the link, but you may have to friend her to see it, not sure though. Leave a comment!

For those of you in group Levitt, I also wanted to introduce you to the work of Taisuke Sato who recently joined from Japan. He has two albums of very different but wonderful work – At the Countryside and Walking Around Nagoya – Please leave comments!

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Street Photography in Quiet Places – Inspiration, Dec 19th

Street Photography in Quiet Places

The term street photography is often thought to mean photographs of people, and usually in big and busy cities, usually walking along the sidewalks. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

It’s a big part of it yes, but it’s only a part.

Street (or social) photography is a sensibility, one that can and should be done anywhere and everywhere. It’s a way of observing our surroundings, sharing our surroundings, and often sharing our feelings and interpretations of these surroundings. 

Environmental photographs, shots of buildings, structures, nature, landscapes, details, and abstracts can and should all be included, in addition to portraits and candid photographs.

Yes, many of these types of photographs on their own certainly won’t hit the technical definition of ‘street photography,’ but when weaved together to share the story of a place, or an internal story, the sky is the limit with what you can do creatively. 

There’s just no need to box yourself in with a strict definition.

But the reality is that it can feel a lot tougher to do this type of work in quieter areas. It IS a lot tougher, at first, and especially for introverts. However, I know that with practice and learning to carry yourself in the right way, it can actually become just as easy as photographing in much busier places.

And the advantage is that you’re most likely the only one shooting this type of work in the area. The place is all yours to take in any direction you want.

The transition can be difficult at first

Being out there mostly by yourself in a quiet area, coming across the odd person here or there, and just standing out as a crazy person with a camera is a really tough feeling. 

But at the same time, that feeling is still just in your head. Photographers shoot in these environments every day, meet people, take nuanced and intimate photos, and have a blast doing it. It just takes time to figure out the right formula for you to pull this off.

How you learn and adapt to handle yourself is the key. I think it makes sense in these environments to often be obvious about what you’re doing. Have a smile on your face, be friendly and introduce yourself to interesting people, and most importantly, explain what you’re doing.

You can say you’re a photographer, you can say you’re taking a photography class. Tell people you’re trying to capture the spirit of the area and people there. Flatter people. Tell them you’d love a portrait of them for your project and you’d love to send it to them.

Portrait Tips

I asked for this portrait and when the guy in blue started to get down pose I had to tell him I loved how he looked already, so keep that pose.

Candid shots are always important, but in quieter areas, I think the portrait takes on even more importance. 

And you can take portraits that feel real, that don’t feel forced, that show a glimpse of who the person is and allow us to ponder them.

Not always, but the best photographers in these environments learn of time how to approach and talk to people. And many of them have said how hard it was and how nervous they were at first – not many started off feeling comfortable with this right away.

But all it takes is a couple interactions, a couple good experiences, to turn your feelings around. And I know we’re going into winter for most of you so it’s a tough time to get started shooting this way, but I want to get this all into the back of your heads for when the warm weather starts coming and for when the pandemic starts to wain.

Sometimes I just give a simple nod, like can I take this photo – that often works well, while other times I’ll stop and talk to people. It really depends on the situation. 

Ask people about themselves. Get them talking and they’ll open up to you and give you a great portrait. Alec Soth often asks his subjects, ‘What’s your dream?’ That such a fun and surprising thing to ask a stranger when you’re photographing them. It’s such a great and surprising question to suddenly ponder. It’ll open a lot of people up to you.

Think about what you might want to ask someone while photographing them.

Revisit the same areas at different times in different lighting

A big part of doing good work in these areas is both giving yourself time to get lucky and time to get comfortable with the areas themselves.

It’s easy to walk somewhere, see nothing, and then disregard it and not want to revisit. But the more you go back to a place, the more you’ll see and the more you’ll get comfortable shooting there. 

New moments and special things will pop out at you that you completely missed at other times.

And lighting is just so important. I’m a huge proponent that you can get great photos at any time of day and in any lighting, but in quieter areas with more details and environmental shots, getting fantastic lighting is a huge key. 

This often means timing with pre-sunset, sunset, sunrise, early evening, dusk, and days with moody weather. Light rain is an amazing time to shoot. Multiple people have commented about going out on bleak days, and those can create the most spectacular environments. 

Get used to checking the weather and sunset forecasts.

Look intimately at your surroundings

Particularly at first, I think it’s easy to do a lot of disregarding in quieter areas. You walk through and see nothing out of the ordinary and keep going and going. 

But it’s important to stop yourself and think about why you’re feeling this way. Often of course there will be nothing there, but just as often you will be missing something completely.

Sometimes the boring and ordinary, the thing that you want to disregard, can actually make the most spectacular photograph. 

And I think looking at a wide variety of work from other photographers and projects can help us all open our eyes to what these things might be.

What do you think about the area? Connect yourself with the place

This tip is important. You’re trying to tell a story here of both a place and yourself within the place. 

Try to understand the area and its quirks and try to figure out how to explain that to us in your photographs. Not every photograph has to be obvious. Some can be strictly about interpretation and feeling.

And thinking about yourself and how you relate to the area is just as important. With a cohesive body of work, you’re going to shine through in some way, and this is an important idea to keep in the back of your head.

How do you feel about all of this?

If you have the time, I’d love it if you could add a comment below about your thoughts about all of this. Do you feel like this is something you can improve at? Are you interested in working on more portraits through 2021?

Regina also brought up a comment about feeling sometimes like a paparazzi and dealing with the feelings (for candid street photography) that many people just won’t like what you’re doing despite often not knowing. 

That’s a tough one to come to terms with because we’re doing this because we like people and just want to share stories. It can especially be tough in quieter places. Do you struggle with this?

I personally feel like as long as you feel okay with what you’re doing, you really can explain your enthusiasm and what you’re doing to most people and they’ll get it (I’ve had that experience many times). 

But also, there’s no harm if you don’t feel right in just not doing candids and focusing on strictly your surroundings and/or portraits. It really depends on how you feel and what you want to create.

Photographer Research

Winter is a great time for this!

Looking at photographs is just as important as time out shooting, especially taking the time to look through projects and to get a few photobooks on subjects that are similar to what you want to shoot and where you’re shooting.

Looking at projects with environmental shots, grand shots, weird details, and portraits of all types will not only give you so many prompts when out shooting, but it also will help you learn what’s possible to do.

I know sometimes it may seem like it, but none of this stuff is out of reach. The key is giving yourself time to get lucky, educating your eye enough to notice those great moments, and just going for it. The moments will come, but you’ve gotta go out for them and you’ve gotta make a move when they happen.

Now for links to some of my favorite photographers / photography projects in (mostly) these areas!

Joel Sternfeld – American Prospects

Alec Soth – Sleeping by the Mississippi

Stephen Shore – Uncommon Places

Trent Parke – Minutes to Midnight

Billie Charity

Niall McDiarmid

William Eggleston’s Guide

Todd Hido – House Hunting

Charalampos Kydonakis – Back to NowhereMore Photos

Graciela Iturbide – Mexico

Josef Koudelka – Exiles

Weekly Photo Links!

Read of the week: Sleeping by the Mississippi – On the occasion of its fourth reprint, Alec Soth looks back at his career-defining project

Streets ahead: The explosive New York scene that changed photography – in pictures

Seven groundbreaking female photographers – in pictures

Tyler Mitchell – By showing Black life as leisure, repose, and outdoor play, Mitchell expands our visual vocabulary of race and space

What is the Difference Between Looking and Seeing?

Good follow: Women Street Photographers Instagram

Happy holidays! – James


Meeting Updates – Inspiration, Dec 12th

Congrats to Vin Sharma on photo of the month. Check out some of her incredible quarantine family photos! (Currently only in group Levitt can access the link, but working with developers to make a quick change so everyone can view, so will reshare this as soon as that’s done.)

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First of all, Happy Holidays!

It was great seeing so many of you on Weds evening and getting to hear your thoughts about the Salon. If you haven’t had the chance, I’d please make sure to watch the first 10-15 minutes of the video, which will explain new thoughts about how things with the site should work. Below are some important points and takeaways.

(I also redid the community and photo guidelines videos, but watching the event video beginning should be enough.)

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Light and an Old Lens – Inspiration, Dec 6th

Coldest day of my life, Central Park, Feb 19th 2015.

(*Don’t forget – the Salon ‘Meet and Greet’ is this Weds at 8pm Eastern time. You can find the links to login on the events page. The event will be recorded and posted as well.)

Light

The first thing I want to talk about is light. We all know how important the right light is for photography, but I think this fact is even more pronounced in winter.

The quality of the right winter light, particularly during sunset, twilight, sunrise, and overcast days can be the most gorgeous time of year to shoot. And particularly when it’s tougher capturing people and certain types of photos that come about during the warmer months, I think timing your exploring with the right light is the key to taking spectacular shots during winter.

There’s just rarely a more beautiful time to capture your surroundings.

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Inspiration, Nov 29th

I hope you all (or the Americans at least) had as wonderful a Thanksgiving as possible given the circumstances. I’m also going to announce a Zoom meet and greet for a couple weeks from now (probably Dec 8th or 9th at 8pm), so keep an eye out for that.

I’m still a little beat up but improving finally and managed my first photo walk in three weeks, which felt amazing. Even cold and quiet days where you don’t come back with a great keeper are so important. I feel like I probably come back with a true keeper every 5-7 medium length walks that I do. Obviously, the hit rate is higher on bigger photo days, but the important thing, particularly during winter is to enjoy the walk and try not to think too hard about getting the best photo of your life.

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Challenge #1 – Dreamlike

Photo of the Month – Niels Krarup Jessen

So heading into a dreary winter (for most of us), I wanted to create an interesting month-long challenge.

The challenge is going to be called Dreamlike. For those of you who want to participate, the idea is to create new work (no old work) that has a dreamlike feel, and also keeping within the Close to Home theme or any area you frequent as part of your daily life.

You can take this in any direction you want. Dreamlike photos can be tack sharp and colorful. They can be dreamlike because of the scenes and objects or people in the photographs, or they can be dreamlike because of the look of the photos as well. You can use blur, black and white, you can make things more abstract, take detail shots, or take strange shots within your home. The sky is the limit with this challenge.

I also want to share two photographers that have done this extremely well.

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