So, what is a photograph?


So, what should I photograph.


I want to leave a legacy.  I want my name to be ‘the photographer Russ Williams’ I want people to search for my pictures on the internet, I want I want I want……


So how do I achieve it? Can I achieve it? Should I try to achieve it?


Anyway, welcome to the difficult second post..  I laid my stall out in the first one, 1000 words basically saying that I’ve been doing this for a while, and my current skill level is scatter-gun click click clicking anything in sight without any thought as to what’s in front of me.  The last paragraph said that I now know what I don’t know.  Couldn’t. Be. More. Wrong! I was pointed in the direction of a lecture on classical art, designed for photographers by Adam Marelli, turns out I have no idea what I don’t know.  First lesson, I have to stop looking at photographs, and start looking at photographers.

One point made in the lecture is not to just look at the most famous photographs, they are famous for a reason, they show the photographer at his best, but look at a photographers body of work.  Look at the photographs that don’t work as well, compare the various stages in a photographers career. Learn from their mistakes, but also learn to make those mistakes so that you learn how to do it better yourself, in your own style.

I started with the obvious, Cartier Bresson.  Now, let me tell you where I was with HCB (as I will call him, as if I was a member of his inner circle!) I knew of his famous pictures, and I knew the phrase Decisive Moment, and I thought I knew what the phrase meant. Of course I didn’t!  Now I know that the decisive moment is the moment that brings all the disparate elements of a frame together to create a photograph.

So my first lesson is to try to stop wandering around looking for something to snap, and to identify a spot where all the elements are present, and photograph the moment that draws them together. Easier said than done! So I want to find a spot that has a diagonal, and reciprocals, large areas of contrasting colour, and most importantly, the chance that when that certain something happens, I’ll be there to capture that one moment.

Now, if all of this sounds a tad naïve, the ramblings of a man who wants to instantly become the worlds greatest photographer just because he knows the theory, then this is kind of by design. Going back to my earlier point, I want to get it wrong, I want to discover how difficult it is, I want to learn to see the photograph intuitively, presently I’m a million miles from that.

So, here’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to do what the greats have done. I’m going to go for a walk. I’m not going to look for a picture, I’m going to look for the things that make a picture.  I’m going to find all the things that I mentioned above, and when I find the place where they all are I’m going to carry on walking and find them again, and again, again…

Secondly, I need to have a goal, a clearly defined idea of what I want.  For this I’m going to decide on a project title and try to only get shots that fit the brief.

My first mini project will focus on figure to ground.  For those who don’t know what this is..  let me explain.  Figure to ground is the difference between the foreground and the background. This could be a figure wearing dark clothing against a very light background, or vice versa, or different levels of whites through greys to black in in blocks in different parts of the picture to give depth and volume to the image (Ansell Adams was the master of this)

I decided on this as my first ‘project’ as it will enable me to identify the area I want to shoot against, spend a little time working out the composition and the angles and then wait for the right person or thing to pass into the absolute correct position to draw the picture together.  Also, It means I don’t have to get too close to the subjects, as I’m not the confident in your face type of street photographer yet!

I’m also going to slightly terrify myself, by only taking one lens with me!  I have a bag of lenses of all different focal lengths, some primes (fixed focal length) wide angles and telephotos, long lenses and wide lenses.  But for the puproses of these projects I’m going to stick to taking just one prime with me.  This means that to get the best compostion, I have to move around.  If I need to zoom in a bit, I have to do it by physically moving closer to the subject.

Also…. (and I can see this being the final word on most of my posts!) I’m still taking pictures of bands….  More of this next time though. I hope!!


See you soon!


One thought on “So, what is a photograph?

  1. What an interesting read! As someone early on the path to photographic goodness myself it’s great to hear that other people have similar musings 😄

    Difficult second post over (I’m all set up to go but can’t quite work out what monumental post one should be!) it’s open up the aperture and all downhill from here..

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