Photography as Poetry

Although there are multiple “rules” for photography covering composition, lighting and focus, to me the best way to approach artistic photo imaging is to think of it as poetry.

Ezra Pound’s “modernistic” poetry comes to mind immediately. Although no fan of the man – he was an anti-Semite, a fascist and a Nazi sympathizer – his 1926 poem “In a Station of the Metro” speaks volumes to me. Here it is:

The apparition of these faces in the crowd; Petals on a wet, black bough.

That’s it, in it’s entirety.

The appeal here, as with all modernistic poetry, is it’s simplicity – Pound’s poem speaks volumes in a few words by simplifying the subject, yet leaving plenty to the imagination. Can you “see” the faces?

Here is a recent photo of mine that I believe illustrate this point:

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Mother and Daughter at Fujisawa Train Station – Japan, 2016

We could title this “Mother and Daughter at Train Station” and say this evokes Mr. Pound with its focus on two faces, one shrouded in mystery as the moving train cuts off exactly half of the mother’s face as the face of the daughter pulls the viewer’s eyes directly to her rapt face, which appears a bit disturbed by the proximity of the moving train. Although there are actually other objects in the picture, the viewer does not see these, focusing only on the “petals” of the “apparition” of the faces. (A well composed and well timed picture draws the viewers gaze to only that which the photographer intended.)

Equally as simple is Haiku poetry. This is poetry stripped to its essentials, telling a story and painting a full picture in just 17 syllables and three lines:

    An old pond!
A frog jumps in—
the sound of water.

(Matsuo Basho, 17th century)

Haiku is a perfect metaphor for esthetically pleasing and intellectually challenging photography also because it has the added advantage of often comparing and contrasting two images – thus remaining simple yet creating dynamic tension for the viewer in the case of a well composed and timed photograph.

Dynamic tension, I should point out serves to create some motion and an added dimension in an otherwise very still and flat medium.

This concept of simplicity and tension works well in the above photo, because you have the faces disturbed by the approaching train (and no other distractions)

In the poem above you san “see” both the frog and the ripples on the water, right? But not much else – that’s the point.

Same with a well framed photograph – simplicity excites and focuses the imagination.

Here is my recent contribution to photography as haiku:

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Egret takes flight – Japan, 2016

Catching this egret just at lift-off, the graceful flight tells one story that is juxtaposed against the stark black, early spring boughs of the tree. I like to think of this photo as simple and elegant, yet telling a moving tale (left to the viewer’s imagination) – just like a haiku.

 

 

Learning to Trust the Twelfth Picture on the Roll

In my composition classes, as some of you already know, I present students with an essay by Bruce Ballenger, “Learning to Trust the Twelfth Picture on the Roll.” The title comes from the “olden days,” when film was sold in 12, 24 and 36 exposures rolls. Ballenger knew, as all photographers who have ever shot film, that often your best photo of any single subject comes near the end of the roll. Essentially, you have been patient and wandered around your subject, ever getting closer, until that perfect shot almost magically appeared.

(Ballenger is using the photography metaphor to urge students to circle their topic, ever getting closer until they find the perfect focus on which to develop their essay or research paper.)

In the following photo essay, which encompasses a March road trip photographing old country stores along the winding and remote byways of Yancey County, North Carolina, deep in the heart of Appalachia, I illustrate Ballenger’s concept, which I feel is an important one for all beginning photographers to master: be patient, circle your subject, and get ever closer.

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This old store is at the intersection of Price’s Creek, Indian Creek Race, and Horten’s Creek Rd.

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Getting closer…

 

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Even closer!

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Bingo!!

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One of four old stores along Bald Mountain Rd.

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Getting closer is always a good thing!!

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Bald Mountain Rd.

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This old store at Bee Log is my favorite shot from two days of road-tripping – unedited, unPhotoshopped. Here are the stats: Nikon D3200 DX Camera,; 55-200mm VR lens set at 55mm (82 mm equivalent with 35mm film camera); 1/320 sec, F/9, ISO 100. I know that often I say don’t center your subject, but symmetry sometimes too is a beautiful thing.

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Getting closer…

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And closer…

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Zoomed all the way in to 200mm

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Another one of my favorite pictures from this series – I love black and white. Notice that I’m pretty close, to accentuate the pump and the bread signs on the door.

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Even closer…

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And this truly is the 12th picture on the roll! (The pump price indicates that this Bee Log area store was last open in the late 60s, possibly early 70s.  Just for reference then, a McDonald’s hamburger cost 15 cents and a new Corvette sold for $5,200!)

Bringing History Back to Life with Photoshop

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Carnac Standing Stones – photo by Worth Weller, Brittany, 1971.

As previously noted in this blog, Susan and I had the fortune to live in Germany, right on the French border, from June of 1970 to November of 1973. Although kept pretty busy by my journalistic duties for the US Army, we had plenty of time (and plenty of pay) to travel widely across Europe. Often on a three-day weekend we could head out to Paris (five hours) or the French coast of Normandy or Brittany (seven or eight hours overnight).

During these excursions I took thousands of negatives and slides, most of which I processed myself either in Army darkrooms or my own home darkroom in Ixheim, Germany. I have the vast majority of these today (although some I lost maybe ten years ago in a freak accident, much to my ever-lasting sorrow). The good news is that these negatives are cataloged, mostly including contact strips to preview the images. The bad news is that the color slides, which I scanned several years ago, did not withstand very well the test of time, and the negatives (some color but mostly back and white), which have long lain dormant in glassine covers, have nonetheless ether accumulated a lot of dust or were never dried in a dust free environment in my home darkrooms.

Enter Photoshop. A previous post described the process of removing dust and related defects from scanned images. Summarizing – a lot of patience with the Spot Healing Brush Tool yields terrific results, particularly if the final destination of the image is Facebook or a blog post like these. For large areas of equally toned or exposed sections of a photo, like a sky background or large elements of clothing or other dark areas, the Noise filter>Dust & Scratches… tool works quick wonders on specifically selected areas (Quick Selection Tool), as long as one is careful with the pixel radius.

One of our most visually outstanding trips to France was an overnight excursion to the south coast of Brittany, specifically the rural village of Carnac, which is the pre-historic hub of an incredible array of standing stones that make the builders of the much more famous Stonehenge look like lazy amateurs. (That said, Stonehenge has a special beauty and mystery which I was fortunate to witness some 30 years after my visit to Carnac.)

The stones at and around Carnac number in the thousands and date as far back as 4,500 BC. When we arrived at the main site, it was barely dawn, and a thick mist greeted us. We remember being very spiritually moved by the tall stones looming out of the dank darkness – remember, this was the early 70s, barely 25 years after the close of WWII, and sites like these in still-recovering France were not fenced or regulated to the status of “tourist attractions.” Judging from the changing lighting conditions revealed by my shots, we must have spent a full morning at Carnac and then drove around the area to find other Celtic sites.

I’ve included a few “pre-Photoshop” images to show the potential of this (free to IPFW students) software, but for the most part I’ve stuck to a more routine documentation of a very unusual day in my photographic career.

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Original image from above, showing 45 years of deterioration as a color negative.

Many of the following images have also had their color improved using the Camera Raw filter in Photoshop’s filter menu. This tool has several “sliders” that easily allow you to adjust shadows, blacks, whites, clarity, vibrance and color balance.

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Camera Raw filter in Photoshop

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Deteriorated color negative

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Sunset in Brittany – this is a pagan menhir converted to Christian symbol, probably in the Middle Ages; photo by Worth Weller, France, 1971

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Sunrise over Carnac – this is a “Dolmen,” probably a Celtic burial vault; photo by Worth Weller, France, 1971

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“Before”

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Dawn at Carnac – photo by Worth Weller, Brittany, France, 1971

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“Before”

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The “Quick Selection” tool – by selecting different parts of the picture, I was able to make different kinds of adjustments.

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There are about 3,000 menhirs at Carnac, covering about 4 acres, plus hundreds more scattered around the surrounding countryside. Photo by Worth Weller, 1971.

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Before

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Christianized menhir – this is a combination of tools in Photoshop, including the Camera Raw filter and the Quick Selection tool. Notice how the “Clarity” slider in the Camera Raw filter revealed details not readily seen in the discolored original. Photo by Worth Weller, Brittany, 1971.

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Carnac Standing Stones – photo by Worth Weller, Brittany, 1971.

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This picture of Susan shows the scale of the menhirs at Carnac – some are more than twice this tall. Photo by Worth Weller, Brittany, 1971.

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This unusual picture, which also shows the scale of the standing stones at Carnac, would not be possible today, as the fields of menhirs are now fenced off and closed to casual viewing. Photo by Worth Weller, Brittany, 1971

These black and white photos, by the way, are edited with a combination of Photoshop to remove the dust and scratches, and with Lightroom to improve the contrast. More on Lightroom later.

To finalize the historical significance of this blog post, I will finish off here with two more recent photos taken exactly 30 years later of standing stones several hundred miles from Carnac that I managed to capture in just the right light. Both photos are Photoshopped to remove dust (these images are on film) and improve contrast.

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Avebury, England – photo by Worth Weller, 2001.

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Stonehenge, England – photo by Worth Weller

Removing Dust & Scratches with Photoshop

In 1971, my wife and I had the good fortune of being able to travel throughout Spain with friends in their convertible Volkswagen Beetle. As an Army photojournalist at the time, needless to say I took a lot of 35mm pictures. Also, needless to say, these negatives and slides some 45 years later are not in very good shape.

Many of my black and white negatives today have a prolific area of dust specks, scratches and watermarks, and the slides have lost their contrast and color intensity and have black spots.

Enter Photoshop to remove imperfections and Lightroom for color issues. (Remember, the entire Adobe Creative Site is available for free by clicking on the “Download Software from IPFW IUware link on the bottom right hand corner of your “My Home” tab at my.ipfw.edu.)

Although there are other ways in Photoshop to remove dust and other imperfections –  notably the Spot Healing Brush Tool (see image below), the Dust & Scratches tool is the easiest way if your desired outcome is to place your photos on the web, say on Facebook where the pictures are not very large and thus remaining imperfections are not magnified.

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I’ve made a short video examining how I use the Dust & Scratches tool, and other more detailed videos may be searched for on YouTube or Lynda.com (available here free to IPFW students and faculty).

The first two black and white pictures below illustrate just how damaged these photographs were before I applied Photoshop. The remaining black and white pictures show my finished products, often using both Photoshop and Lightroom (particularly “filter” presets) together.

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You can see there is a lot of dust in this picture, particularly showing up on these penitents’ robes and their crosses.

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Dust, as well as a general lack of contrast, mars this picture too.

After adjusting the contrast and the whites and blacks in Lightroom, I used the Filters>Noise>Dust & Scratches… tool in Photoshop along with the Spot Healing Brush Tool to repair my scanned negatives. Following are the “touched up” results along with a bit of commentary.

 

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Easter Week procession in Seville, Spain – photo by Worth Weller, 1971

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Look at the “drying” streaks that nearly make this negative unusable….

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Traditional “cave house,” Andalusia, Spain – photo by Worth Weller, 1971

 

 

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Photoshop – mostly a lot of time spent with the spot healing brush and some selective “broghtness” control on her face after using Lightroom to up the contrast in general.

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Before Lightroom and Photoshop – looks pretty hopeless!

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I adjusted the contrasts and brightened the whites in Lightroom and then removed the dust and the horizontal dark line (light leak in my Nikon camera body?) with Photoshop’s Spot Healing Brush tool. Photo by Worth Weller, Andalusia, Spain, 1971

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This picture needed a lot of work – the cliff face in the background was particularly spotted with dust – I was able to darken the cliff face and  brighten the tombs with Lightroom, and then used the Dust and Scratches tool in Photoshop to remove the specks across the cliff face – yes, the cliff face is a bit “soft” as a result, bu I like the slightly out of focus look as it replicates good use of depth of field to push the viewer’s eye to the foreground. This was also taken in Andalusia, Spain.

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Before Photoshop, this picture was heavily marred by dust and scratches. Photo by Worth Weller, Seville, Spain, 1971.

Working with old color slides is a bit different, and after playing with these a bit in Lightroom I exported them  to a folder where I opened them in Photoshop and used some of the other tools such as Image>Auto Tone and Image>Auto Color. I used the spot healing brush a lot. As with any learning experience, the more you “play around” and experiment with these tools, the better your results will be. At some point, the whole experience of being able to research issues (YouTube and Lynda.com through the above IPFW site) and self teach yourself is a valuable learning and workplace tool.

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Before Photoshop

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After

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Before

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After – photo by Worth Weller, Seville, Spain, 1971

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Before

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First step was to use Lightroom to improve the contrast and lighten the shadows (mostly the “Clarity” tool), then I used Photoshop’s Spot Healing Brush tool to remove the defects. Photo by Worth Weller, Atlantic Coast. Basque Country, 1971

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This image was so faded I “punted”….

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Removed all the color in Lightroom and brightened the whites. Often Black and White is more powerful than color.

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Shooting almost directly into the sunrise, this picture had numerous other defects after languishing as a film slide for some 40 years.

Mand and dog after2-1After much playing around with both Lightroom and Photoshop, this is my favorite picture from this collection. Our 1971 journey through Spain was a memorable trip, and I am glad to have been able to salvage some images that may no longer be available in modern Spain.

 

 

More Fun with Black and White

Although Kodachrome is as old as 1935, and other color photography techniques were used well before then, an awful lot of black and white pre-digital 35mm photographs of stunning imagery has been taken since then by such photographic greats as Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour, W. Eugene Smith, and now turned to digital photographer Sebastião Salgado, to name just a few.

As special as color photos can be, there is something even more startling in their photographs. Because black and white photography offers no distractions, the context, lines, textures and composition of a monochrome image can speak volumes more, can tell a story of humanity in its raw, basic, essential elements.

Living recently in Malaysia with a week-long sidetrip to Japan, I had the opportunity to go on several photo safaris with son Ben, in which we deliberately “loaded’ our digital cameras with black and white “film” and set off to find images that told special stories on their own without the aid of the vibrant colors I had become accustomed to in Melaka.

Following in the footsteps so to speak of Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells a Story”, this is what I discovered over a one-week period when I changed my FujiFilm X-E1’s shooting mode from color to black and white:

Malaysia

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Malacca Straits

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Malaysia’s first submarine – my camera was set to replicate a red filter to increase the contrast between the clouds and the blue sky and between the salt corrosion and the steel of the submarine.

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Hindu temple, Melaka

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Hindu priest, Melaka

Japan

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Buddhist temple, Nagoya

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Buddhist temple, Nagoya

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Nagoya street scene

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Takayama lunch scene

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Takayama

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Takayama temple

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Takayama rickshaw drivers

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Takayama street scene

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Takayama street food

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Local Sake for sale on the street in Takyama

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Takayama street scene

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Takayama – a river runs through it…

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Nagoya subway scene

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Takayama street scene

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Mid-afternoon snack in Takayama

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Traditional meal in Takayama

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Bullet train from Osaka to Nagoya

Walking the walk vs. talking the talk

Best of Show – Of the 2,252 pictures I took with my FujiFilm X-E1 mirrorless digital camera in Melaka, Malaysia over seven weeks in October and November of 2015, this is my favorite. Other than cropping (it didn’t need cropping because I was patient with this photo, having asked this man for permission to take his portrait) it represents every single concept Ben Weller and I teach in our online Visual Communications course for IPFW. The lighting is soft and from behind me, the photo uses creative (shallow) depth of field, and it follows the “rules” of thirds and threes (more on this later). The ISO was set at 6400, as this was a very dark and unlit other than by a door spice and flour mill; the zoom lens was set at 107mm, the aperture at f/5.6 (for shallow depth of field), and shutter speed with the high ISO went automatically to 1/300th of a second.

Best of Show – Of the 2,252 pictures I took with my FujiFilm X-E1 mirrorless digital camera in Melaka, Malaysia over seven weeks in October and November of 2015, this is my favorite. Other than cropping (it didn’t need cropping because I was patient with this photo, having asked this man for permission to take his portrait) it represents every single concept Ben Weller and I teach in our online Visual Communications course for IPFW. The lighting is soft and from behind me, the photo uses creative (shallow) depth of field, and it follows the “rules” of thirds and threes (more on this later). The ISO was set at 6400, as this was a very dark and unlit other than by a door spice and flour mill; the zoom lens was set at 107mm, the aperture at f/5.6 (for shallow depth of field), and shutter speed with the high ISO went automatically to 1/300th of a second. Following are the rest of my “top 30” photos from this world-class experience.

It’s one thing to sit in front of your MacBook with your iTunes blaring away and writing and thinking about photography. Talking the talk so to speak can be much fun but rather hypnotic, if not downright narcissistic. It’s another thing all together to hit the hot streets of the city to practice a bit of walking the walk among a sea of humanity.

Although I have deeply missed (I am still in Asia as I write this) the cool mountains of North Carolina along with the peaceful chances to depict its rustic and scenic beauty, it has been my thrill of a long lifetime in photojournalism to spend the past seven weeks in Melaka, Malaysia, a real cultural, esthetic and historical jewel among the major cities of the world, possibly second only in my travels to Paris (where my heart this past week has rested with great love and sorrow).

So, as my Visual Communications students back in Indiana prepare for the Portfolio in the coming weeks, I’d like to use some of my new photos to illustrate the concepts they will be putting together for their final assignment.

Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds - note the man with the cap (I asked his permission) is in the right third of the pictures,not the middle.

Rule of Thirds – note the man with the cap (I asked his permission) is in the right third of the pictures,not the middle.

Concept is the same here (I asked his mother for permission), with a little

Concept is the same here (I asked his mother for permission), with a little “creative” depth of field thrown in.

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This Muslim woman occupies the left third of the picture, leaving the other two third uncluttered and providing a sense of balance and esthetic described by Plato as “the golden ratio.”

Here the Rule of Thirds is working well again with a little creative depth of field thrown in to add a slightly

Here the Rule of Thirds is working well again with a little creative depth of field thrown in to add a slightly “Impressionistic” feel to the picture. I know that some will say she should be looking into the frame for “balance,” but I like the dynamic tension the unbalanced effect provides.

Rule of Threes

Rule of 3s

Rule of Threes keeps your photos uncluttered. No more than three main objects or spaces in your viewfinder!!

This could be considered a little

This could be considered a little “cluttered,” but the point is to be very deliberate and to limit the distractions.

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You might say this can’t be rule of threes because there are four people here. Look again. There are two groupings of people – one group faces the water, the other group is coming towards the viewer. The out of focus background counts as the third part of the image. The symmetrical groupings of the people, seeing the backs of two people and the fronts of two people, as well as the bright colors, create and air of simplicity elegance, and motion.

 Artistic Depth of Field

This is one of my favorite photos, from the

This is one of my favorite photos, from the “farmers market” in Melaka’s Little India. All of the background is out of focus, to bring the wizened woman in the foreground into sharp focus. (She had a good laugh, as did everyone else who was watching me – I probably took ten frames before I got this one…)

I like this one beccause the focal plane is only directly on the woman - both the foreground and background are out of focus.

I like this one because the focal plane is only directly on the woman – both the foreground and background are out of focus. Notice this picture also follows rule ofd threes – count them: background, woman, foreground.

Another of my all-time favorites - the

Another of my all-time favorites – the “Impressionistic” out of focus background forces your eyes to the main of the photo. Notice this picture also follows rule of thirds.

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This pictures encompasses interesting lighting issues (backlighting), as well as artistic use of depth of field (only the woman is in focus), as well as Rule of Threes (count them – woman and two fully delineated backgrounds) and Rule of Thirds (she is mostly in the left third of the frame).

This is a

This is a “happy” photo – plus it has artistic depth of field, follows rule of thirds and rule of threes (woman, background, face on right). I also like the dynamic tension created by the tight framing from my zoom lens.

DOF-dad

Once again, only the prime elements of the image to which I want to draw the viewer’s attention are in focus, with the background artistically blurred. Rule of threes and of thirds is also in play here.

This youngster, who was quite anxious to have his picture taken, practically jumps out at the viewer because the blurred background propels him to the foreground. Image carefully encompasses rule of threes and of thirds too.

This youngster, who was quite anxious to have his picture taken, practically jumps out at the viewer because the blurred background propels him to the foreground. Image carefully encompasses rule of threes and of thirds too.

This is among the top five pictures of the 100s I’ve taken in Malaysia over the past six weeks. Aside from the brilliant and interesting colors, the background is perfectly blurred to blow the man right out of the image. Yet the background remains very interesting too, wile staying very simple so as not to clutter the pictures as backgrounds often do. Rule of threes (man and two different backgrounds) and Rule of thirds complete the esthetic integrity of the picture.

This is among the top five pictures of the 100s I’ve taken in Malaysia over the past six weeks. Aside from the brilliant and interesting colors, the background is perfectly blurred to blow the man right out of the image. Yet the background remains very interesting too, wile staying very simple so as not to clutter the pictures as backgrounds often do. Rule of threes (man and two different backgrounds) and Rule of thirds complete the esthetic integrity of the picture.

Lighting

This picture has just about everything going for it in my mind. The lighting though is what I was trying to set up as I hung out the other day in Melaka’s historical city center, which at all hours of the day and night attracts a ton of tourists from all over the Pacific rim. This is “backlighting,” where the source of light comes mostly from the back of the frame. You can see the light glowing through the fountain as well as through the Malay flag to the left. Back lighting also creates the “halo” effect around the hats and shoulders of the man and woman. And of curse, I’m always thinking of the rule of threes and of thirds. Notice too that the man on the right is quite cut off – you’ve also seen that in the “happy” picture of the Indiana woman above, where her friend is looking in from the right. I like the sense of dynamic tension these snippets of a second person create. That’s the beauty of a zoom lens – you can get as “tight” as you want, creating the shallower the depth of field possible (the longer the lens, the shallower the depth of field). The lens here is set at 230 mm, which is quite long for a hand held digital camera.

This picture has just about everything going for it in my mind. The lighting though is what I was trying to set up as I hung out the other day in Melaka’s historical city center, which at all hours of the day and night attracts a ton of tourists from all over the Pacific rim. This is “backlighting,” where the source of light comes mostly from the back of the frame. You can see the light glowing through the fountain as well as through the Malay flag to the left. Back lighting also creates the “halo” effect around the hats and shoulders of the man and woman. And of curse, I’m always thinking of the rule of threes and of thirds. Notice too that the man on the right is quite cut off – you’ve also seen that in the “happy” picture of the Indiana woman above, where her friend is looking in from the right. I like the sense of dynamic tension these snippets of a second person create. That’s the beauty of a zoom lens – you can get as “tight” as you want, creating the shallower the depth of field possible (the longer the lens, the shallower the depth of field). The lens here is set at 230 mm, which is quite long for a hand held digital camera.

 I centered this couple because i wanted to get the backlighting on both sides of the fountain. Still follows rule of threes, rule of thirds, and has creative depth of field. Lens is set here at 230mm, ISO 800.

I centered this couple because i wanted to get the backlighting on both sides of the fountain. Still follows rule of threes, rule of thirds, and has creative depth of field. Lens is set here at 230mm, ISO 800.

Don’t be afraid to short directly into the light sources: you can get some very interesting and creative photos that way.

Don’t be afraid to short directly into the light sources: you can get some very interesting and creative photos that way.

This is another of my favorite shots – backlighting, rule of threes, rule of thirds, and artistic use of depth of field. Lens was set at 192 mm, ISO 1600.

This is another of my favorite shots – backlighting, rule of threes, rule of thirds, and artistic use of depth of field. Lens was set at 192 mm, ISO 1600.

Framing

This is a simple concept that much like DOF, drives the viewer’s eye towards the main intent of the photo.

This photo has the added impact of being a silhouette.

This photo has the added impact of being a silhouette.

I love this photo on multiple levels. Notice how the woman in the background is "framed" by the 400 year old Portuguese tombstone.

I love this photo on multiple levels. Notice how the woman in the background is “framed” by the 400 year old Portuguese tombstone.

There are a variety of ways you can "frame" a photograph. Be creative.

There are a variety of ways you can “frame” a photograph. Be creative.

Typical framing.

Typical framing.

Typical framing.

Typical framing.

I could have zoomed in or cropped this tighter, but I like the framing "devices" on either side of the young Muslim women, to "set the scene" so to speak while still keeping your attention on them.

I could have zoomed in or cropped this tighter, but I like the framing “devices” on either side of the young Muslim women, to “set the scene” so to speak while still keeping your attention on them.

Classic framing - there is a lot going on in this picture, and I waited patiently for it all to develop.

Classic framing – there is a lot going on in this picture, and I waited patiently for it all to develop.

Classic framing.

Classic framing.

Another picture I could have cropped or zoomed in on more, but I deliberately wanted the door of the old church to "frame" these teenagers taking selfies. I think framing adds both impact and context to pictures that otherwise might have been a tad pointless or trite (overdone).

Another picture I could have cropped or zoomed in on more, but I deliberately wanted the door of the old church to “frame” these teenagers taking selfies. I think framing adds both impact and context to pictures that otherwise might have been a tad pointless or trite (overdone). And of course we have shallow DOF working here too.

Cropping

Cropping is tricky and can be overdone. The image produced by your smartphone and any digital camera generally conforms to the Greek Golden Rectangle, considered the perfect and most pleasing architectural shape and dimension. The shape is roughly equivalent in proportions to your standard 4 by 6 print. Any cropping that deviates dramatically from these proportions often does not work esthetically. That said, the very famous Hasselblad camera (it was used to photograph the first moon landing) shoots 2″ b y 2″ square negatives, so there are exceptions to this “rule.”

Cropping also requires that your original image be very sharp, as essentially you are enlarging the picture to new dimensions.

Here are a few before and after examples; you be the judge:

This shot I originally liked because of the composition and overall color scheme. Zoom was set on 90mm, so I had plenty of room left to work with.

This shot I originally liked because of the composition and overall color scheme. Zoom was set on 90mm, so I had plenty of room left to work with.

However, thinking about it later, I really liked the friendliness of these you women and the contrast between the burqa and the hijab. I felt I needed to get "closer" to fully show this new realization. Fortunately, I had been shooting at ISO 800, so the shutter speed had go to 1/210 which is plenty fast for a hand held image stabilized lens, particularly one set at a relatively short zoom length. Thus the new image is equally as sharp, and quite a bit more interesting I feel.

However, thinking about it later, I really liked the friendliness of these you women and the contrast between the burqa and the hijab. I felt I needed to get “closer” to fully show this new realization. Fortunately, I had been shooting at ISO 800, so the shutter speed had gone to 1/210 which is plenty fast for a hand held image stabilized lens, particularly one set at a relatively short zoom length. Thus the new image is equally as sharp, and quite a bit more interesting I feel.

This was a very random shot which i saw only seconds before I had to snap the shutter. I wasn't happy with the composition.

This was a very random shot which i saw only seconds before I had to snap the shutter. I wasn’t happy with the composition, as the Chinese tourist in the brilliant pink shirt and white shorts on a green bicycle (poetic inspiration from William Carlos Williams) was what caught my eye in the first place (the scooter on the left was just a bonus!).

Now I think more of the focus is on the bicyclist, with some of the extraneous image removed.

Now I think more of the focus is on the bicyclist, with some of the extraneous image removed.

 

Ethical Travel Photography

Muslim women

Young Muslim women in hijab and burqa (photo by Worth Weller, Melaka, Malaysia, November, 2015)

Any discussion of Travel Photography – the subject of Unit 5, Field Ethics – must begin with a thorough understanding of the culture in which one is traveling. Put in direct terms, don’t get directly off the boat, so to speak, and start shooting.

My wife’s and my son Ben, who also teaches this course for IPFW and who taught it previously face to face at IU-Bloomington, and I have had the incredible fortune recently of being able to shoot together in Malacca, Malaysia, a town and country that is a real jewel of the Arab world in Southeast Asia. Ben brings to the table more than a decade of shooting in Korea and Japan. Before I arrived here I read travel guides, expat web sites and locally authored novels about Malaysia and followed the local political and environmental news online, so I was well versed in the history, demographics, national issues and culture of the country. Between our knowledge and experience we felt fairly well prepared to document (to a small and limited degree) a culture not well represented in the media.

We have not been disappointed.

However, reading and studying is not enough: these photo will also reveal a willingness to get out from behind the camera, to quit looking through the viewfinder and directly engage your “hosts.” Note that I did not say “subjects.” As you are traveling, the people you are among are not “subject” to you – they are not objects placed there for your amusement or the entertainment of your friends back home. Their “quaint” habits, their “colorful” garb, their homes and living conditions are not there for you to admire or feel sorry about or whatever.

Ben, through years of experience as a “people” photographer, is particularly eager and able to engage the people he hopes to photograph. Although interested in getting candid photos, he is equally eager to get to know the people and the “contexts” that inhabit his photographs. This is an acquired skill that takes patience and practice as well as a willingness to overcome one’s own natural shyness plus a willingness to be rebuffed.

I’ve never seen him rebuffed however, and in fact, he is often invited back.

The pictures below will reveal why this is so.

Imam and Ben

Ben Weller getting name and e-mail address of Imam Ahyead of Masjid Kampung Kling (photo by Worth Weller, Melaka, Malaysia, October, 2015)

And here is the result:

Imam

Imam Ahyead, spiritual leader of Masjid Kampung Kling (photo by Ben Weller, Melaka, Malaysia, October, 2015)