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Thread: An unusual question for all of you??

  1. #1

    An unusual question for all of you??

    This question is not about cameras, lenses, packs, darkroom gear, nor processing photographic materials. It is not about the mechanics of photography, but rather its application. It is about the application of large format photography in the field. In fact I have only found one book that even touches on this subject.

    Every year I head for the mountains of Colorado at tree line or above. I expend a great deal of money and time executing these photographic expeditions. There is food, film, shelter, clothing, fuel, and tons of camera equipment. To get everything back into remote places I use a llama. Hershey carries about 100 pounds and I carry around 60 pounds for a total of 160 of gear for 5 days. I may take 5 or 6 of these trips each season.

    These expeditions are very serious efforts at practicing my art. It has become a goal of mine to extract 1 to 6 exhibition images per day while on each trip. This is no small feat and I often find my self working from 3 AM to 10 PM every day. It is exhausting, but it is also mentally exhilarating.

    My to question to you is what methods, strategies, and techniques do you employ in the field to insure success? To increase your productivity? To generate lots of exquisite images? Are there special films that allow you to shoots under more varied lighting conditions? Are there classifications of compositions you use to help identify possible images? Do you classify light such as ?holy light? or ?dynamic light? to help you in your quest to find an inspirational image? How do you stay fresh and stave off exhaustion so that you ?see? what really lies in front of you? The questions are varied and many, but they all aim at plucking forbidden images from the land, 1 to 6 per day. No small feat, indeed.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Oct 1997
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    1,227

    An unusual question for all of you??

    The first thing I do is try to get rid of what commercial work pushes on me... The knowledge that I HAVE to get an image. I can go & never shoot a thing if nothing jumps out at me and nothing tickles the keys of creativity. At other times I can shoot more than 50 sheets a day. Getting past the idea of having to produce and letting the light, the land & the surroundings work with how I feel at the time results in better images for me. When I stop & take a second look it us usually because something caught the creative spirit inside. Not necessarily what I see initially, but something in the background or something I need to look closer to see. Taking that first impression often covers up what it was that I saw and I end up with a nice photo but not what the deeper look would have produced. Being willing to set up, explore the world through the lens while under the darkcloth & take the whole thing down & walk on gives better results than shooting every time. Oftimes there isn't anything that works well or I don't get past the initial look and at other times I am able to work past the 'standard nice photo' stage. I look back often as it can be a lot better than what 'lies in front of me'. Frequent breaks, just listening to the land helps a lot.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Mar 1999
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    112

    An unusual question for all of you??

    Sounds like you have the most important part already figured out. While I can't imagine why one guy would need 160 lbs. of gear to travel five days in the backcountry, you're already making the commitment to be out there, and that's what so many aspiring photogs have the hardest time with. My thoughts on the rest might sound rather simplistic, but there's no substitute for being "in the groove." You're in the elements, ready for the sweet light. The more you put yourself in position to capture those fleeting moments, the more prolific you will be at bringing them home. Personally, I'd stay away from pronouncements like "1 to 6 exhibition images per day." Go with the flow. Dewitt Jones once said (paraphrasing here), "If you go out one day to shoot reflections, and Mother Nature's doing trees that day, then by golly you'd better do trees." And if you consider a long trek in the mountains with very few photos to show for it a bad day, remember my own motto: A bad day in the mountains is better than a good day most anyplace else!

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jun 2000
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    178

    An unusual question for all of you??

    I have learned two key "rules" that i follow that has helped my making great images in the last few years. First, I read in an essay somewhere (maybe someone recognizes this and can name the author) that sometimes the best photographs are the ones we don't take. I have taken that to mean it is easy to become obsessed with seeing the world through the lens of a camera and capturing it on film and not just appreciating the miracle of the world around us. I don't think it helps my "production", but I have found that it helps to leave the cameras at home once in a while and just "be there" taking everything in: the sounds, the breezes, the feel of a place, not just what I see on the ground glass.

    Second, I became a much happier phtographer when I learned to accept what is given me for weather, quality of light, subject matter, etc. Instead of always looking for the perfect conditions I am learning to pursue the perfect negative for any condition that is presented. Things are much more interesting and challenging if you drive 12 hours wake up the next morning and the clear weather that was predicted has turned into a misty, foggy morning in the mountains. There are exquisite images to be had, but you need to recognize them and the technical adjustments to capture them. That comes with experience and that is where I am now, learning how to make great images in not so great conditions.

    Hope this provides some insight.

  5. #5
    Robert A. Zeichner's Avatar
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    Feb 1999
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    An unusual question for all of you??

    I feel the self imposed quota of productivity can only lead to disappointment in the end. An artist is not a machine. When he or she attempts to become one, they turn into Thomas Kincade (Check out that thread for a few laughs). I agree wholehaertedly with the poster that suggests learning how to make lemonade when faced with lemons is the important thing. I almost never bring back the images I imagine I will get and that from trips to places I've been to again and again. There are times when we all get creative dry heaves and can't produce a thing worthwhile. I know a guy who insists he never takes a bad photograph and I've witnessed the quality of his output go steadily downhill. Yet, people still clamour for his work and that demand seems to be more the driving force behind what he creates than any desire to get better at his craft. On one hand, I'm envious of someone with so much energy as yourself and the resources to make so many forays to what sounds like such a wonderful place with a beast willing to carry most of the load. On the other hand, had I those resources and time to use them, the last thing I'd want to do is impose some quota on what I MUST bring back from each trip. You can't force art! Art just happens sometimes and other times it doesn't. There is always an element of chance. You increase that chance by learning your craft well. When opportunity and preparedness intersect is when art happens.

  6. #6

    An unusual question for all of you??

    You have gotten alot of excellent opinions here and what I want to say is that it seems like your putting alot of unnecessary pressure on yourself. Let the day flow. You cannot change mother nature and just remember, your the one out in the back country where most others wouldn't venture. Take a look at your work with the thought in mind "we are our worst enemy" and ease up. If you are technically on, rule of thirds for composition, perfect exposure, magic hour light and all that... get yourself a Holga camera and loosen up, shoot from the hip without using the viewfinder! I'm a "technical" commercial shooter and a few colleagues where after me to loosen up. One gave me a Holga and said to try it. I said something like... "a plastic camera with a plastic lens and you even have to tape the foolish thing up to get rid of some of the light leaks, your nuts..." After the first roll of film to find out what this cheap little thing could do, I started to have alot more fun and the creative juices flowed more and I really got ALOT of great images not only with my large format but the little Holga. In the end, I was purely amazed what a little $20. crap camera did for my visions and my way of shooting. Don't get me wrong, at work I'm still a technical shooter because I have to be but I'm alot more relaxed about it and that helps alot.

  7. #7

    An unusual question for all of you??

    Stephen, I agree with Robert. The notion of counting the number of "keepers" per day is, frankly, appalling. However, I can completely relate to your desire to maximize the time for photography and use it in an intense way. One's best work often arises from extreme intensity in short spurts such as you describe. As Bob Krist says (in the context of travel and scenic photography), 90% of it is access, and you have that part down.

    Nevertheless, let me suggest that if you want to spend more time photographing, perhaps it would be salutary to look closer to home. I, too, love the treeless vistas and for a time I longed to go to Antarctica to photograph. I applied for a grant to go there, but was rejected. So I decided to make fictional polar landscapes close to home, in Philadelphia, New Jersey, and New England. These pictures ("Imagining Antarctica") turned out to be some of my best work and helped me and my audience see our local surroundings in a fresh way.

  8. #8

    An unusual question for all of you??

    PS, Scott is right too. My "Antarctica" series was done with a Holga.

  9. #9

    An unusual question for all of you??

    "The more you put yourself in position to capture those fleeting moments, the more prolific you will be at bringing them home."

    Well-said. Also, leave some photographs for next time. Our compunction is to capture as much as possible-"you'll be back" and if we aren't, some things are left for memory and will influence our future actions/choices/images. You are already a success for your journey is as interesting as the destination.
    lensworthy

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Apr 2000
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    169

    An unusual question for all of you??

    You've gotten some excellent responses, and I'll just add a couple thoughts. The biggest impediment to my work is my 25+ years of commercial photo/illustration work and the ingrained habits of 'production' and deadline. The worst thing about commercial work is that you often don't make the best possible picture because you *must* make e nough very good ones for publication. Don't artificially put the same negative pressure on your creative work by insisting o n x number of "exhibition images". Anyway, for my own purposes, the very concept of Exhibition Image would be destructive because it implies I already know what the picture should look like. I don't go out and photograph to make pictures I already know, I go o ut to find, learn, and express new things I've not yet encountered.

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