What aperture did you shoot that?

From Australia: a great ad for the Lumix G2
It's meant to advertise the "intelligent auto" settings of the camera, but it reminds me that the basics of composition are more important than knowing about specific settings.
That's why I don't make a single mention of aperture or shutter speed in book one. You've got to build that foundation of knowledge, arranging the elements in the frame, keeping it simple, waiting for the right moment, choosing the best photo. That's why Book One - The Foundation works with any camera.

Get that under your belt and then learn about f2.8 @ ISO500 +1.5EV to push your photos to the next level.


In response to Macrobe's excellent book recommendation I thought I'd post that book and two other great photographic resources that are worth spending some time with.

Flipping through the Amazon preview of  The Photograph I saw those famous early images from Stieglitz and Steichen, Muybridge and Marey and was reminded of Jeff Curto's History of Photography podcast. Jeff is a professor of photography at a college in the Chicago area, and for the last several years he's been recording his class-sessions, and along with the presentation slides, uploading them as free podcasts.

So in other words, free college-level course to listen to whenever you damn well please!
He teaches in a really entertaining, down-to-earth, approachable way and it's a hell of a lot of fun to listen to. Highly recommended! http://photohistory.jeffcurto.com/

3 Response to "What aperture did you shoot that?"

  1. Macrobe Says:

    I remember my Dad, a free-lance photographer, telling me so long ago not to worry about 'how': how to set up the frame, how to arrange the 'elements', how to master the Zone, or Thirds. He told me to shoot what I saw in my mind's eye. And the rest will come together. It seems that so many photographs are almost copy cats of each other because everyone aims to conform to the same 'rules', like photographing by numbers (rather than paint by numbers). But what photography really is, is an interpretation of the world, of reality. As we see it. And sometimes, that might be outside of the box.

    You might enjoy this excerpt by Graham Clarke from "The Photograph." (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1997)

    How Do We Read a Photograph?

    Whenever we look at a photographic image we engage in a series of complex readings which relate as much to the expectations and assumptions that we bring to the image as to the photographic subject itself. Indeed, rather than the notion of looking, which suggests a passive act of recognition, we need to insist that we read a photograph, not as an image but as a text. That reading (any reading) involves a series of problematic, ambiguous, and often contradictory meanings and relationships between the reader and the image.

    The photograph achieves meaning through what has been called a 'photographic discourse': a language of codes which involves its own grammar and syntax. It is, in its own way, as complex and as rich as any written language.

    The photograph both mirrors and creates a discourse with the world, and is never, despite its often passive way with things, a neutral representation. Indeed, we might argue that at every level the photograph involves a saturated ideological context. Full of meanings, it is a dense text in which is written the terms of reference by which an ideology both constructs meaning and reflects that meaning as a stamp of power and authority. Far from being a 'mirror', the photograph is one of the most complex and most problematic forms of representation. Its ordinariness belies its ambivalence and implicit difficulty as a means of representation.

    To read a photograph, then, is to enter into a series of relationships which are 'hidden', so to speak, by the illusory power of the image before our eyes. We need not only to see the image, but also to read it as the active play of a visual language. In this respect two aspects are basic. First, we must always remember that the photograph is itself the product of a photographer. It is always the reflection of a specific point of view, be it aesthetic, polemical, political, or ideological. One never 'takes' a photograph in any passive sense. To 'take' is active. The photographer imposes, steals, re-creates the scene/seen according to a cultural discourse. Secondly, however, the photograph encodes the terms of reference by which we shape and understand a three-dimensional world. It thus exists within a wider body of reference and relates to a series of wider histories, at once aesthetic, cultural, and social.

    Every photograph is not only surrounded by a historical, aesthetic, and cultural frame of reference but also by an entire invisible set of relationships and meanings relating to the photographer and the point at which the image was made. The image is as much a reflection of the 'I' of the photographer as it is of the 'eye' of the camera.

    Thus we can read a photograph within its own terms of reference, seeing it not so much as the reflection of a 'real' world as an interpretation of that world.

    I enjoy your blog.

  2. Anthony - Motojournalism Says:

    Thanks for dropping by Macrobe, that's a great comment and a fantastic book recommendation.
    I'll update the post with a link to the book and a link to a podcast that I think you would enjoy greatly.

    I certainly agree with the sentiment on shooting what the mind's eye sees, rather than copying the format of others before you. The "rule" of thirds is the obvious misnomer and just scratches the surface of the many ways composition can work.

    A "breaking the rules" post is something I've been thinking about for a long while...

    It's a bit of the old chicken and egg scenario though, especially when you are starting out: You need *something* to latch on to, if only to give the footing you need to move on to your own photographic expression.

    As a child with a 110 camera, I remember distinctly seeing the image I wanted in my mind's eye, and being shocked at the disconnect when I got the photos back from the lab.

    I returned to photography years later with new knowlege of composition gained from working in graphic design. With that tool I was able to "see" through the viewfinder better, and look at the real-world objects in the frame as components to be moved around a rectangle in relation to one another. That one tool gave me what I needed to get closer to showing what I saw in my mind's eye.

    "Photography & the art of seeing" by Freeman Patterson is a classic if you haven't seen it already. It's very broad-concept and gives you tools for breaking out of the normal confines and finding your own way of expression "Think sideways" indeed.

  3. Macrobe Says:

    Ah, yes! 'Breaking the Rules' is a great idea. A popular Texas motorcycle forum has a very active photography section. After seeing so many photos that repeat and repeat, I started such a thread (same title ;). It was a challenge for others to shoot 'outside the box.'

    Patterson's book is quite good. Interestingly, 'seeing' closely correlates to sense of place, and how we perceive space. Ask ten people what they see when they look at the same scene and you will hear ten different answers. Ten different meanings. The same can be said of a photograph. And some times one, maybe two, might see the same as you, the photographer, saw.

    My contrariness tends to be bucking the 'simpler is better' rule. Some of my photographs are purposely busy. The viewer has to really look at individual components in a particular photograph, which when all put together tell a story. I like to challenge viewers to think, even ask questions.

    It's all about self-expression. :)

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