Archive for 2012
I am pleased to debut my latest series, Spotlight, in which I highlight the work of emerging, noteworthy photographers worldwide who create meaningful, memorable work. It is an honor to introduce my first guest, Israeli photographer Ronen Goldman (pictured above in his own work), whose imagery – both commercial and fine-art – investigates the limits of verisimilitude and the suspension of disbelief. Below, check out our recent conversation covering topics as diverse as the “Israeli question,” painstaking post-production, and the pursuit of bringing one’s own, internal “dreamworld” to viewers’ eyes.
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Photos by Ronen Goldman
Your conceptual approach to photography yields dynamic, at times surreal, results. Talk about the notion of the “photo dream.” From what influences did you develop such an entry point into the art of photography?
I have always been interested in dreams. It seems to me that experiences we have while sleeping are sometimes as powerful and meaningful as “real events.” The subconscious is such an intriguing and uncharted land, and always proves itself a worthy realm for exploration. This preoccupation with my own subconscious is how my Photo-Dreams series came to life; it is an attempt to recreate dreams or dream fragments through photography. Once this series started to accumulate more and more entries, it became a collection known as the “Surrealistic Pillow Project.” I’m influenced by the surrealist movement that took the subconscious-based art to amazing levels. Artists like De-Chirico, Magritte, Man Ray, Ives Tanguy and Dali are among my favorites.
Your identity as an Israeli – a contested political, social and economic territory – has surely shaped your identity as an artist. How does your sociocultural background shape the way you see the world from behind the lens of a camera?
Israel is a very “loaded” place to live – for so many reasons. Truthfully, I try not to get political with my art, since my subconscious is much more amorphous. There is no doubt, though, that living here creates some deep-rooted ebbs and flows of anxiety, paranoia and exhilaration that are evidenced in the photographs I create.
You were one of the winners of Catherine Hall Studios’ Exploration of a Muse photography contest. How did you first hear about the contest, what inspired you to enter, and how did you create your winning submission?
I follow Catherine’s TWiT Photo podcast and was excited to find the competition on Google+. The subject of “Exploration of a Muse” was too good not to enter, so I did – right away! My winning submission is called “Master Magician.” I depicts a mysterious man in the woods, who is throwing cards in the air that magically spiral towards the camera. Creating this image was painstakingly long, since I shoot all parts of my images on location. I shot every single card in that photo separately and in its unique position and then combined the layers of photos together to create the spiral.
What guiding impulses – both intrinsic and extrinsic – drive you to take pictures?
Every photo starts from a dream or fragment I remember. I then sit and start exploring what interests me about the dream and figuring out why it appeared to me in the first place. I develop the idea into an image in the real world, somehow devising a way to call it into existence, despite all the technical and photographic constraints. My drive comes from wanting to share complex, abstract ideas with other people.
Your artistic process obviously requires a lot of technological manipulation. What gear and software are indispensable to your photography?
Nowadays, I use a 5D Mark II, which I absolutely love. I also use an array of prime lenses, but some of my best images were created early-on with a Canon 350D and pretty unsophisticated lenses. Photoshop, of course, is indispensable to me.
Who are three of the most influential figures in your growth as a photographer?
I am influenced by any art I run into, whether it’s painting, music, sculpture, or literature. I appreciate anything that involves people making thought provoking objects for others to to view or experience. Choosing three is very hard, but I’d say they are:
He created worlds of poetry by juxtaposing objects in beautiful ways, and made the viewers believe that what they are looking at is impossibly real.
He created beautiful, masterful music even when nobody was listening.
His keen eye – ready to freeze whatever it is the world displayed in front of him and arrange it all, amazingly, in split seconds – is astonishing.
Did you receive formal training in photography – and, if so, where did you study? How valuable is a university education or technical degree for people who aspire to become professional photographers?
I attended Tel Aviv University, where I studied film, script writing and storytelling. There is no doubt these subjects influence my work today, although I really only got into photography after graduating, so I can’t say that I have any formal training whatsoever. That said, education is extremely important, especially in a field like photography where there is so much technical stuff that one should really know about. I got all my photography education from reading books, magazines and Internet resources. There is so much you can learn online, and learning that way was the right way for me. If you feel more comfortable studying at a university you should do it – whatever path is best for you to acquire knowledge is the journey that you should take.
Establishing and summarily breaking New Year’s resolutions is, at this point, such a cultural cliché that I won’t even bother cracking a joke about it. When Google+ Community Manager Brian Rose posted this witty and self-deprecating “10 New Year’s resolutions for designers” from .net magazine, it struck me that I should create a similarly fun list for photogs. Here goes nothing!
- If you spend every Friday night with a glowing monitor, you may want to get out more.
- When you’re creating, listen to that hard knot in your gut. Let this be your guide – especially when an idea first strikes you as stupid or absurd. It might just be your jackpot.
- In the grand scheme of things, you are not that important. Don’t just keep your ego in check; how about just leaving it at the door.
- Being a perfectionist can paralyze you. At some point, you have to release your work into the world and let it go.
- Do you often ask yourself why someone you believe to be worse then you is über famous? Or really, just a lot more successful than you are? Stop comparing yourself with others. And oh, get a grip.
- Instead of imposing or manufacturing a style, act intuitively. This will allow you to evolve naturally and over time.
- There’s nothing worse than derivative art. Don’t copy.
- You are absolutely, unequivocally the worst editor of your own work. Do not rely exclusively on your own eye. Consult with other people who you trust. Smart people ask for help.
- If you take risks, you might end up with terrible images….but sometimes you won’t. In fact, sometimes taking risks can result in your magnum opus. Risk-taking is the life blood of photographers evolving their craft.
- Don’t take shitty images and then think you can infuse them with inspiration by re-touching with Photoshop. Learn how to craft exceptional images in the first place. This is the true art of photography.
TWiT Photo took a break this week as my cohost Leo Laporte is in Vegas for CES. Lucky Leo! Please watch a video of our first episode of 2012 – and what a rush it was for both Leo and me, as well as those of you present in the TWiT chatroom. We were extremely fortunate to have “King of Formula1 Photography” Darren Heath to kick off yet another exciting year of TWiT Photo. Before speaking with Darren, I had thought Formula1 races were all glitz, glamour and a great adrenalin kick for any photog lucky enough to be near famed drivers, stunning Grid girls and of course, the sleek and awe-inspiring cars. According to Darren, who traverses from Monaco to Abu Dhabi to capture the dizzying excitement of the races, the personality-driven sport is really not that glamorous. If you want a job as an F1 photographer, you will need sharp elbows to fight off the dozens trying to get the best shots of that race. Learn lessons from Darren on panning; best shutter speed and firing mode; dealing with “unsavory” F1 security personnel, and stabilizing monster 600mm lenses amid the fiery atmosphere of one of the most exclusive motor sports. The following are his top tips during the show:
Rule of Thirds.
The rule of thirds is a compositional rule of thumb in visual arts such as photography, painting and design. The rule states that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts (as per my examples) by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.
Don’t just take a picture, make a picture.
What I’m trying to get across is a sense that when one takes a photograph try to think of all the reasons one is taking it and how one would like the end viewer to see it and their reaction to it. All photographers are in essence trying to create interest and excitement for the person or people who will eventually view the image so don’t just shoot, shoot and shoot again without really giving some thought to the picture you wish to achieve.
Use light effectively.
The importance of light and having the patience to wait for it’ is really something of a mantra for me. It goes hand-in-and with my two previous tips and when all three are combined a winning shot should be the result. Think about the position of the sun, the time of day, the track the sun will take across the sky, the subjects position relative to the light, lens, flare, shadows, back-lighting opportunities, aperture and shutter speed settings, etc, etc, all are key.
Have questions, suggestions or praises? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You all know Rick Sammon. Gregarious, lighting-sharp photog who scours the world in search of singularly unique subjects. To date, he has traveled to more than 100 countries, braved a much-publicized rescue from the wild Highlands of Papua New Guinea, and published 36 photography-industry books over the past 20 years. His life is the stuff of legend. Last year, Rick and I spent a good deal of time together, bonding as professionals, tech geeks, and lighting freaks; recently, he was gracious enough to travel to our studio in Petaluma to appear on yet another fun-filled TWiT Photo episode with Leo and me. Below, Rick dishes on his creative process for his “Girl with a Pearl Earring – The Photograph.” Teeming with tips and tricks for lighting up your pictures like the old, painterly masters, this guest post is solid gold.
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Post + Photos by Rick Sammon
We can learn a lot from the master painters.
One of my favorite paintings is “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. The painting has been referred to as “The Mona Lisa of the North.” Hey, I like it even better than the Mona Lisa.
One of my favorite movies is “Girl with a Pearl Earring” starring Scarlett Johansson.
Both the painting and the movie inspired my shoot: “Girl with a Pearl Earring – The Photograph.” My goal was to try to recreate the beautiful lighting Vermeer used – which included the nice catch light in his model’s eyes and the soft side lighting. Perhaps most important I wanted to recreate the mood and feeling of the painting – or should I say the model.
I studied pictures of Vermeer’s famous portrait, following the advice I give my photography workshop students: Study the works of master painters. These works will teach you about light and shadows, color and detail, posing and composition . . . and many more elements that go into making a good image.
I made the portrait in my office. I don’t have a studio, but I turned my office into one in about 15 minutes. We shoot here during my Croton Creative Workshop.
Please add Croton Creative link above:
Here is the simple process I went through to get the image:
The first step was to find a model, which turned out to be my friend’s daughter, Maggie.
Next I bought the propos: two scarves from Macy’s. Maggie already had the jacket.
Before my Maggie showed up, I set up a very basic lighting system. One Canon 580EX II Speedlite in a Westcott Apollo soft box. I fired the flash with my Canon ST-E2 Wireless transmitter. I shot with my Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 100mm lens.
Some lighting tips:
• The larger the light, the softer the light.
• The closer the light, the softer the light.
• Don’t point the light (Softbox in this case) directly at the subject. Rather “feather” it, that is, point it slightly in front of the subject.
• Don’t underestimate using only one light source. If it worked for Vermeer, who used one window light, it can work for you.
During the shoot I shot tethered, using Canon Digital Photo Processional to see my pictures on my MacBook Pro. The Beatles looked on, from a poster I got in 1967.
I had a print of Vermeer’s painting attached to the soft box, and one next to my computer, for guidance. Maggie had studied the painting and the girl’s expression for a week before the shoot.
It was finally time to shoot! My wife, Susan, helped set up the shot, while Zoe, another friend’s daughter, held a Westcott black panel on the opposite side of the soft box to eliminate any reflected light.
I did a bit of work in Photoshop: cropping, increasing the contrast, dodging the earring, and using the Color Replacement brush to change some of the colors in the image. I spent maybe one hour in Photoshop.
What really makes this image so cool is Maggie. Never underestimate the importance of a good model – and the right model. I knew Maggie was perfect for the part.
So again, study the work of the masters if you want to master your lighting.
For more lighting tips, see my apps:
Explore the light,