Cheryl Machat Dorskind
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Category Archives: photography quotes
Six Tips For Photographing Children Naturally
© 2012 Cheryl Machat Dorskind
“Like the people you shoot and let them know it”
I recently photographed a twelve year old boy at the beach and wanted to share some tips.
A consultation begins the process. At the meeting, learn the expectations. For example will the client want an 8×10” print or a wall sized canvass? Determining the output size in advance is important for pre-visualization. Compose with size in mind. Additionally, larger output size requires large files sizes.
Plan the wardrobe and pay attention to winning color combinations. Children’s swimwear often features bold saturated colors. Finding clothes with minimum or no logos is tough. For this session we chose a gray shirt to balance the highly saturated colors of the swim trunks and board).
To help break-the-ice with twelve-year-old Justin, we walked together down the beach and chatted. I did not want Justin to perform; I wanted him to be himself.
I did not use an assistant because adding someone to hold my flash or reflector would break the bond Justin and I had formed. Luckily the overcast sky and time of day did not require supplement. The beautiful Hampton sunlight was shining its magic. (A surfer even stopped and commented on the gorgeous light.) Instead, my assistant shot some video that I uploaded below.
Determine Your Camera Settings Before You Begin
Preplan your camera settings. Select an exposure mode, focus and drive mode, ISO, aperture, and shutter settings that make most sense for your session before you begin so you are not fiddling with the camera. I used continuous drive mode and AI Servo (AF Mode).
I was working an hour before sunset and the sun was weaving in and out of clouds. Knowing I can use a high ISO on my camera, I set it to 640, enabling flexibility in terms of shutter and aperture selection. Since the sunlight was changing rapidly, I used aperture priority exposure mode and kept my eye on the shutter to make sure it did not dip too low to cause camera shake.
From time to time, check your camera settings. Sometimes in the midst of a shoot, you will inadvertently move the exposure or your exposure mode dial (consider taping the function drive in place). Check that your shutter is fast enough to avoid camera shake (1/focal length of the lens) and that the appropriate focus tracking is set.
Beforehand, I decided to use a 70-200 mm lens providing ample space between Justin and I. This distance enabled Justin to relax. (At the beach you do not want to be changing lenses).
Keep the pose natural
Patience+rapport = natural poses. Let the natural body language be your guide and then tweak. Set up a scene, and then let the action occur. Be ready to capture the moment. The “right” smile is often right after the child smiles.
Shoot at the child’s level
Children will react better and your images will improve if you meet the child at their eye level. This often means you will find yourself on the ground.
Know when you are done.
Personally, it is a feeling I get. I feel done. “I got it.” Be sensitive to the fact that most children do not want to have their picture taken. Learn to sense enough is enough. Quickly scroll through the thumbnails to see if you have a few winners.
Join Cheryl for one of her online photography classes. New sessions begin this weekend (October 7-9) and November 5, 2012.
All About Color
More About Color
Photographing Children: Rising to the Challenge
Friday Quote: “All the wonderful accidents that happen to you as an actor”
This line caught my ear while driving the other day and listening to Frank Langella’s interview with Dave Davies for NPR’s Fresh Air (August 16, 2012). I later listened to Langella reminisce about how hard it was to portray President Nixon.
“Well, I was at the Museum of Radio and Television. I asked the lady there if she’d be good enough to give me some tapes on him. And she said how many do you want? I’ve got thousands and thousands. And she brought in a big wagon and I got a sandwich and an iced tea, and sat and plugged in the Watergate shows and watch him. And then I got up to go to the bathroom and I pressed the button and when I came back I pressed slow motion as a, in an accident, really. All the wonderful accidents that happen to you as an actor, and that was one of the great ones for me. And I watched his eyes and the way his mouth moved and his hand gestures in slow motion. And suddenly I began to see what he was hiding. I began to notice the ticks much more vividly than I had normally, because we had all seen so much of him that you grew used to it. But when you watch him in slow – when you watch anything in slow motion you’re going to see something a little waiver in the eyes, a little strange smile, whatever. And that’s when his heart, when the soul of the man, as I perceived him, began to take shape for me and then I began to think well, maybe, maybe I can find a way to do him.”
Hearing others I admire respectfully admit mistakes encourages hard work, bravery and a willingness to experiment. Langella struggled, watching thousands of videos to find his Nixon voice, he researched, contemplated and then accidentally found the answer. Mistakes can be fortuitous seeds for brilliance.
Labor Day marks the celebration of American workers and the beginning of the school calendar. And as I begin teaching my fall semester classes at the local community college in an economic environment that does not scream for more photographers, I encourage you to work hard at your passion, listen, experiment, make mistakes, and celebrate.
Happy Friday and a Happy Labor Day weekend to all my American friends,
Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Gordon Parks
By Cheryl Machat Dorskind
I was so happy to read the announcement about the upcoming photography exhibit at the International Center of Photography in midtown New York City celebrating Gordon Parks’ 100th year anniversary of his birth.
The ICP is taking the show to the streets, by including mural size photos as window displays and downloadable talks to mobile devices by Gordon Parks himself. The aim is to introduce Gordon Parks’ works to a new generation.
I have had the pleasure of knowing Gordon Parks’ genius as a filmmaker (including “Leaning Tree” and “Shaft”), writer, composer, and photographer. Largely self-taught, he lived to 93 years old. He was able to overcome many barriers as a child, including poverty and racism. During his tenure at Life magazine, Parks’ photographs focused on social inequality.
Perhaps his best known photograph is “American Gothic” which depicts a black cleaning woman named Ella Watson who stands stoically in front of an American flag, a mop in one hand, a broom in the other. Copyright laws restrict me from posting this photo, but I am able to post another that features Mrs. Ella Watson. This photo was obtained from the Library of Congress’s vast digital photo resource. If you haven’t visited this website, take a look this weekend. It is rich with American history. (www.loc.gov)
Below are a few quotes from Gordon Parks.
“Time smiled, touched my shoulder, and told me things I’d never heard before. Now and then certain wonders of the universe descend carefully from the Maker’s hands and, one by one, fall into a chosen space to blot out emptiness.”
Humor on aging:
“Recently my memory is slippery, like an eel. The spectacles that were missing this morning were kind enough to turn up on my head.” He says, “Funny, things I forget are often more significant than the things I remember.”
Eyes with Winged Thoughts
On love and hope:
“Despite the turmoil, anguish and despair disrupting the planet we inherited, there is something good I choose to sing about. That something lies within us, patiently waiting – beneath us, above us and around us.”
Eyes with Winged Thoughts
The exhibit opens Thursday, May 24th. Maybe I’ll see you then.
Have a great weekend and keep your camera in heart synch.
by Cheryl Machat Dorskind
© 2012 All Rights Reserved
In•tu•i•tion — The ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning (Webster’s Dictionary). Intuition guides the photographer: Where to look, How to frame, What to see is the photographer’s internal, intuitive dialogue.
Harry Callahan was self taught and known as the “regular guy.” He was also a devoted and beloved teacher. His work ethic was pronounced and laced with intuition. Britt Salvesen sums up three prerequisites for intuition: openness, freedom, and curiosity which are maintained with effort, discipline, and patience. Callahan’s intuitive love for his wife Eleanor and daughter Barbara are reflected in the renown photographic series he created of them.
Intuitively, I knew this was going to be a great moment with my daughter Nicole.
Happy Mother’s Day,
Friday Quote will focus on intuition for the next few weeks. We will begin with the pithy words from a master.
“Art takes wing from the platform of reality. We observe reality; we may or may not feel anything about it. If we do feel something, we may have a moment of recognition of the imperative subject and its qualities in terms of a photograph. In a sense this is a mystical experience, a revelation of the world that transcends fact and reaches into the spirit.”
Ansel Adams in collaboration with Robert Baker
Polaroid Land Photography
Boston; NY Graphic Society/Little Brown, 1978
Here’s to openness and intuition,
From the blog series: Friday Quote: Truth ?¿?
“The power of photography lies with the power of undeniable reality of the image…What is real about the medium of Photography? Photography is very unreal. You take a three dimensional world and reduce it to a two-dimensional world. You take color and reduce it to black-and-white. You take the world and life constantly moving within time, and reduce it to an instant moment. That’s not real. It is an illusion of reality. There are many things that are very false about photography when it is accepted without question. You must recognize this and interpret it as you would any other art form, and then maybe it is a little more than real.”
Interviews with Master Photographers
James Danziger and Barnaby Conrad III
Arnold Newman offers a treasure of wisdom and inspiration. He dedicated much of his life to photo education.
As Newman remarks, photography plays with the notion of time. Time can be on our side.
Make the most of your time and have a great weekend,
Friday Quote: Truth ?¿? “Photographers are always imposing…” ~Susan Sontag
“Photographs furnish evidence. Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we’re shown a photograph of it. In one version of its utility, the camera record incriminates…In another version of its utility, the camera record justifies. A photograph passes for incontrovertible proof that a given thing happened. The picture may distort; but there is always a presumption that something exists, or did exist, which is like what’s in the picture…While a painting or prose description can never be other than a narrowly selective interpretation, a photograph can be treated as a narrowly selective transparency…Even when photographers are most concerned with mirroring reality, they are still haunted by tacit imperatives of taste and conscience…In deciding how a picture should look, in preferring one exposure to another, photographers are always imposing standards on their subjects. Although there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, photographs are as much an interpretation of the work as paintings and drawings are.”
A recent editorial in The New York Times Sunday Review (my favorite section) previewed a Susan Sontag sampler, a taste of what is to come in a new book of Sontag’s journals (1964-1890) edited by David Reiff (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/opinion/sunday/a-sontag-sampler.html).
Within the sampler, you’ll find a list of things Sontag likes:
“Ivory, sweaters, architectural drawings, urinating, pizza (the Roman bread), staying in hotels, paper clips, the color blue, leather belts, making lists, wagon-lits, paying bills, caves, watching ice-skating, asking questions, taking taxis, Benin art, green apples, office furniture, Jews, eucalyptus trees, penknives, aphorisms, hands.”
The last item on her dislike list is “taking photographs.” Surprising? She was after all Annie Leibovitz’s partner for fifteen years, but once you read On Photography, I suspect you’ll understand. Her posthumous collection of letters will be published April 10, 2012. Click here to pre-order.
Have a wonderful holiday weekend,
“Photography never lies: or rather it can lie as to the meaning of the thing…never to its existence.”
Below Barthes remarks on his experience as subject:
“In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art. In other words, a strange action: I do not stop imitating myself and because of this, each time I am (or let myself be) photographed, I invariably suffer from a sensation of inauthenticity, sometimes of imposture (comparable to certain nightmares). In terms of image-repertoire, the Photograph (the one I intend) represents that very subtle moment when, to tell the truth, I am neither subject nor object but a subject who feels he is becoming an object: I the experience a micro-version of death (of parenthesis): I am truly becoming a specter.”
I just saw the Cindy Sherman show at MOMA and her self portraits play on these philosophical “what is truth” probings. She constantly toys with herself, molding her image, grabbing a self out of her bag of costumes. I am a bit haunted by her later, larger than life size portraits of aging woman, who on the surface appear elegant. Juxtaposed on digitally imposed bucolic backgrounds, on close exam the aging details crack the heavily powdered foundation and reveal gravity, wrinkles pointing to masked time.
“There is an old adage in music: “if you play when you practice, you practice when you play.”
Over 50 years ago Ansel Adams, feeling restless, made a career choice, forgoing the life of a classical concert pianist for that of a photographer.
He was encouraged by family and friends to stay the piano course. “Oh Ansel, don’t give up the piano, the camera can not express the soul…The only answer I had to that was, I don’t think the camera can, but maybe the photographer could.”
Friday Quote: If they were willing to give, I was willing to photograph
“It doesn’t matter if you use a box camera or a Leica, the important thing is what motivates you when you are photographing. What I have tried to do is involve the people I was photographing. To have them realize without saying so that it was up to them to give me whatever they wanted to give me… if they were willing to give, I was willing to photograph.”
Conversations with John Tusa
Eve Arnold, a pioneering photojournalist, died this past Wednesday at the age of 99. She began her career in 1946, when career women were a rarity, let alone women photographers. She was one of the first women to join Magnum Photography Agency (along with Inge Morath). In her memoir, Arnold recalls how she studied contact sheets she found at Magnum to learn how the other Magnum photographers, such as founders Henri Cartier Bresson and Robert Capa, approached their assignments. She noted that Henri Cartier Bresson’s work in particular taught her to tell an entire story in a single image.
In the 1950s, Arnold carved a niche in Hollywood and is perhaps best known for her “natural and intimate portraits” of Marilyn Monroe, and “unflattering real portraits” of Joan Crawford. Yet, Arnold prided herself in staying away from “women pages” and whenever possible worked from a global perspective, traveling the world, documenting infamous faces, and winning many prestigious awards, honors, and publishing 12 books.
Have a great weekend and take a moment to reflect upon the work of Eve Arnold,
“I begin by not photographing” ~Jeff Wall
“I developed that phrase because it just described something I really do. If I see something on the street, lets say, I don’t photograph it. So I could be looking and hunting for things…but I just don’t photograph them. It’s only a small difference, really. The actual event disappears as a photograph. It vanishes as a potential photograph. It doesn’t happen. But, it doesn’t disappear because I am the photographer…
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
The Art Institute of Chicago on Jeff Wall: “Epic and luminous, the work of Jeff Wall has overturned nearly every convention of photography. Meticulously staged and theatrical in scale, Wall’s images have more in common with the grandest history painting of the 18th century and the flickering mesmerism of cinema than with the fleeting documentary style of much of modern photography.”
“Most people hide behind a socially attractive mask. Others lose their composure in front of a camera. Lighting and photographic equipment are less important to the portraitist than psychology and conversation. If he uses them effectively, sometimes in the short span of a sitting a miracle happens. A fragment of evanescent truth is captured and instant eternity (simply add hypo!) is born.“
– Philippe Halsman
The word hypo evokes nostalgia – I miss the darkroom!
(Hypo – a trademark of Kodak- is a clearing agent used to remove fixer from films and fiber-based paper to shorten the washing time and also enable washes at lower temperatures practical.)
I was reintroduced to the fine work of Philippe Halsman when I met and photographed Austin Ratner this past August. Austin Ratner spent five years researching the life of Philippe Halsman and wrote the highly acclaimed novel, “The Jump Artist”
In addition to his renown portraits of celebrities, politicians, and intellectuals of the period of time between 1940-1970s, Philippe Halsman was also known for his “jump” pictures which include popular comedians of the time (Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Groucho Marx) and (then) Vice President Richard Nixon jumping. To learn more about Philippe Halsman, http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/halsman/intro.htm.
“The contact sheet is like the analysts’s couch. It’s also a kind of seismograph, recording the instant. It’s all there, what surprises us is what we catch, what we miss, what disappears. Or else an event that fulfills itself as an image.”
~Henri Cartier Bresson~
Contacts, Vol. 1: The Great Tradition of Photojournalism (1988)
DVD, Directors: Richard Copans & Stan Neumann
Contact sheets are valuable editing tools and they’ll help you stay organized. Back in the film days, contact sheets were part of the workflow. Now we view digital files on a slide show, 2 up, four up, or plain old one up. But it is hard to edit the many images that a digital session typically produces.
With a contact sheet, a best shot will pop. The printed thumbnails give you a different perspective, one that is useful for gaining insights into your work. Editing is important, a best practice is to “show less and only the best.”With a white background, there is plenty of space for writing comments or circling the best shots.
For your next photo shoot try a contact sheet and discover how the thumbnails will help you “see.”
Have a great weekend!
Have you noticed that art critiques (photography, films, and book reviews as well) can be awfully opinionated? Art criticism is supposed to be about detailing, explaining, and educating the public. But sometimes art critics get carried away with their editorial perspective.
“Abigail Solomon-Godeau views her chosen critical agendas as one of asking questions: Primarily, all critical practices—literary or artistic—should be about asking questions. That’s what I do in my teaching and it’s what I attempt to do in my writing.”
Critic Kay Larsen, states that she starts writing criticism “by confronting the work at the most direct level possible—suspending language and removing barriers…you can try to figure out how to explain it, and there are many ways to take off—through sociology, history, theory, standard criticism, or description.”
And lastly, Grace Glueck sees her role as a critic as “being one of informing members of the public about works of art: She aspires to inform, elucidate, explain, and enlighten.”
With the above critical philosophy (from the terrific book Criticizing Photographs, by Terry Barrett Criticizing Photographs
as a backdrop, I now turn to the exhibit of Maurizio Cattelan at the Guggenheim, “All.” Maurizio Cattelan is known for his prankster approach to art and critics have not been kind.
And yet…he is having a retrospective at the age of 51 at the Guggenheim Museum and he cleverly insisted on using the brilliance of Frank Lloyd’s Wright’s space to hang (never-to-be -done-before) his collection of 128 works in the center of the atrium.
Ingenious and fun, you see the art from different perspectives as you walk up and down the ramps: I recommend the exhibit to all. The Guggenheim even gives you free headsets so you can learn about Cattelan.
I have read several reviews—thankfully defacto (since I might have been put off going by the undeserved negativity): The New Yorker, NY Times, and Bloomberg condescend, NY Magazine and The Economist offer useful insights. Jerry Saltz of NY Magazine summarizes in his redemptive article, “All is Cattelan internally fissuring, convulsing into a spectacular grand seizure. It’s full disclosure, nondisclosure, self-martyrdom, panic attack, and jumping-the-shark rolled into one—and it’s also some kind of masterpiece.”
Visit the museum and let me know your thoughts. And notice, I say thoughts; this is when opinions are welcome.
“What are the first sounds you hear in the morning, before you open your eyes? The loud insistent beep of an alarm clock? The voice of a news announcer or loud rock music on your radio? The “noise alarm” of a crying baby or honking horns and other traffic noise outside your window? Or are you one of the lucky ones who awakens to just the simple sounds of nature – wind rustling in the trees, a rushing brook, the singing of birds tuning up like an orchestra before the great symphony of your day?
The first moment of awakening is brief, but it’s important. What you hear influences your mood, alertness, energy level, and thus your behavior more directly and more profoundly than you may realize. Not only does each particular sound element create an impact, but the ratio of noise to organized sound, the layering of multiple sound sources and the combined decibel level of all the sounds that greet you can all have a dramatically positive or negative effect. The effect can linger. As with a bell struck by its clapper, the effects of these sounds can resonate throughout your day.”
Excerpt from the book
“Healing at the Speed of Sound: How What We Hear Transforms Our Brains and Our Lives”
By Don Campbell and Alex Doman
Music and art (of course, I include photography in this category) are interrelated on many levels. Many speculate that Sir Isaac Newton distinguished seven colors of the visible light spectrum (yellow, orange, red, green, blue, violet, and indigo) to parallel the notes of the musical scale. (Nowadays, indigo, a hard to distinguish color, is often left off the list).
As photographers we paint with light. Starting your day with the right sounds will profoundly affect what you may or may not see, how you will see, and what you choose to leave in and out of the picture frame.
There are many artists and photographers who link music and art, music and light, music and taste, music and smell. Scientists call this synesthesia. I will be talking about these relationships in future blogs. Stay tuned and send me your comments.
English photographer, inventor and designer
“Being photographed is a bit like being in the electric chair; nobody likes it. I think the only way you can learn about taking pictures is to be photographed yourself so you can see what an awful experience it is…
I like to direct my subjects and tell them exactly what to do. It is not always a matter of making people feel totally at ease. Often the only way that one can break through someone’s prepared face is to make them slightly uncomfortable, physically or mentally. Sometimes people can be awkward or ill at ease in a way that expresses themselves better than when they are relaxed.”
From the book “Snowdon Sittings”
Over the course of his career, Snowdon photographed almost anyone of importance in the art and fashion world. He was greatly influenced by Henri Cartier Bresson and Irving Penn.
Want to learn more about Lord Snowdon? Here is a video interview with Charlie Rose from 2001
“We all measure ourselves every day by other human beings, by everyone we meet. I’m interested in people who do things and the hardest-working people I know are creative people: artists, musicians, writers. The motivation of these people and even the drive of the top business executive is exciting to me. I love to interpret people in a way that combines the graphic aspects of art that have always fascinated me, for instance design — design that relates to my feeling about these people and their work. Design is composition—anything that makes the picture work whether it is free or rigid in feeling. It all depends on what you have to say about that specific person. It is all related.”
From the book “Interviews with Master Photographers”
As a portrait photographer and educator, I pay homage to Arnold Newman who is the father of environmental portraiture and moved the studio beyond four walls.
Location. Location. Location. You are only confined by your imagination.
If you are interested in learning more about Arnold Newman visit the Arnold Newman Archive: http://www.arnoldnewmanarchive.com/.
For photo book collectors:
Cheryl Machat Dorskind