Friday, June 15, 2012

Necessary Tools

Greetings, volks. Welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place! The weekend, upon us, should lead to some exciting photo opportunities in and around the Hohenfels area.

I often talk about using accessories. A flash and some light modifiers can be essential tools in our kits. Today we’re going to talk about tools and not having them.

The first thing to know is that you don’t need it all. You don’t need a flash or lighting kit, you don’t need the wide fixed focal length lens, and you don’t need fancy intervalometers. In fact, you only really need your camera and your lens. Actually, you need 2 more things, your vision, and your knowledge.

Your vision is more than how you see things. It consists of how you see things and how you choose to express those things. It also consists of being able to visualize the intended final image and the steps to make it happen. Visualization allows us to plan and compose our image being we even approach our camera. It allows us to create a roadmap of our image’s creation and gives us the ability to follow through on our expression of the scene. One long time technique to aid in visualizing an image is to take an old 35mm slide frame and view your potential scene through the opening. You’ll see new ways to frame and compose an image. You can use a piece of black matting with a 1.5 to 1 ratio rectangle cut out. That opening can be 6x9, 10x15, or 4x6. The 1.5 to 1 is what 35mm film and today’s digital cameras use. This isn’t a tool in creating your image, but it is a tool in crafting your vision. Try it out, and let me know how it works for you. There are many nuances to vision and visualization that we’re not touching on in this post, so don’t think that’s all there is to it.

Our knowledge refers to our ability to use our camera for our purposes and art rather than letting the camera use us for its work. It’s knowing how to evoke a response to a scene and how to compose that scene for aesthetic rather that literal rendering. It involves knowing how our camera operates and how exposure works. Learning the exposure triangle and where along the range of values a brightness falls will be a giant step in mastering your vision. Knowing how and when to use DOF effects for impact and contrast to increase drama, knowing that a cloud should be exposed at about 2 stops over meter, maybe 3 if the your vision feels the need, is a key knowledge. So is knowing that long evening shadows cast by the low lying sun journeying home need to be at 2-3 stops below meter to capture the full range of detail.

Combining vision and knowledge can be a frustrating journey. It can also be incredibly rewarding. The key is to open yourself to learning and seeing every day. Once you feel your vision, you’ll start noticing things you never saw, and trying to figure out the best way to make your vision real. You’ll also notice that it isn’t about the gear, it’s about your image and art.

Do I still think of my tools as necessities? Of course I do. I love a portrait with shaped, directional light. I love getting a tiny bit of bounce into a shadow area. Using an umbrella to soften your light is a tried and true way to improve many photographs, not just portraits. Can I visualize an image without thinking about my tools? Of course I can. When I’m shooting large landscapes, a flash won’t help, neither will a reflector. The key is thinking the shot through before making it.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone. I hope you spend it capturing the moments that express your vision best!

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