Monday, September 15, 2014

Digital Playground: If your eyes could speak, what would they say?

I am excited to be spending 3 days at the Digital Playground in Luna Park where photographers from many genres will be sharing their stories together with an exciting expo showcasing the latest equipment from the likes of Canon and Nikon.  The annual Australian Professional Photographers Association conduct their judging in a very open forum at this event, giving us the chance to listen in on what the pros look for in a photograph.

I have learnt so much at this event that it is hard to summarise in a blog post but there are some key things that stand out for me.  I enjoyed Mike Langford and Jackie Ranken’s talk who shoot the same places from very different perspectives highlighting for me how differently we all see the world.  It also reminded me that no one else sees the world in quite the same way as I do…so our art is a way to share the things that press our buttons.  While it is great to be inspired by other people’s work, ultimately, we must develop our own voices.  When I had my first exhibition Connections, many people commented that it was clear one person had shot all the photographers.  Unconsciously, I realised I had started to develop my own voice.

I also learnt the importance of a good edit as people judge you by what you put out there.  Less is always more and adopting a minimalist approach is key when it comes to show casing your work! 

Vincent Van Gogh once said about his art, “I dream my painting and then I paint my dream.”  I learn that in photography as well, it is important to first have a vision, to write the story you want to portray and then go in search of the photographs that will bring it to life.

There are a number of sessions on wedding photography.  While I have never dabbled in this myself, I am intrigued by these discussions because ultimately, they are all about capturing great portraits and more importantly the emotion of the day.  Establishing a connection with the people involved can create these moments, but many of these shots just happen—and being ready to capture them is key.

Many of the photographers talked about the importance of light.  Light is the most important element of a photograph.  The colour of light evokes emotion and can create very different moods.  Blue light gives an uneasy, cold mood to the scene whereas the oranges of a sunset will create a sense of warmth.  The source of light, whether it is big or small and its distance will also affect the mood and texture of your photograph, as it will mean the photo is either soft or harsh.  Having areas that are lit and areas in shadow is also important in creating depth and interest in a photograph and will add to giving the viewer a true sense of the place you are capturing. 

We got a spontaneous lesson in the use of light from Glynn Lavendar when he asked to shoot me after his inspiring session on street portraits.  A group of us walked over to an adjacent window and I had the unusual sensation of being a model for this group of photographers.  It was a great lesson in the use of available light.  Glynn taught us how to observe the direction of light by just holding up our fingers to the window and then rotating them.  When we learn to use light effectively in our photographs, we learn to create drama.  After all the meaning of photography is Greek is learning to write with light!  So as Glynn explained that day, learn to be a seeker of light.   

Of course this is not enough.  We must become really familiar with our gear, learn which lens will tell the story better for each situation, learn to shoot fast and make quick decisions, learn when to under expose and when to over expose to add to the drama, and ultimately, learn to be more than just a   The magic is not in the tool, it is in your heart! What story are you trying to convey?
person with a camera.

I came away feeling good about the way I was going about my portrait photography.  Making a connection with people has always been important for me and that takes courage.  Being able to step up to a stranger and strike up a conversation enables you to capture more than just a photograph.  It also allows you to learn a little bit about the person you are photographing, enabling you to tell a more complete story. 

If I were to sum up an important lesson from this series, here it is.  If you want to become a great photographer, first find out what turns you on.  Then work, travel, study, exhibit, go for awards and scholarships and show the world what you are all about.  Shoot what surprises you, what shocks you, what makes you laugh, what inspires you and what repulses you and you will begin to find that it resonates with others.

As with anything in life, if you are not prepared to invest in yourself, can you expect anyone else to?

I leave you with this thought.  If you eyes could speak, what would they say?

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