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Category Archives: Photography
Happy Birthday Vincent Van Gogh
Born in 1853, Vincent Van Gogh decided to become an artist at the age of 27. Mostly self taught by copying masters’ works and studying drawing manuals, Van Gogh produced over 900 paintings and over 1100 works on paper during his anguished life.
As photographers, we have much to learn from Vincent Van Gogh. Most importantly, Van Gogh felt that it was necessary to master black and white before working with color.
Digital photographers control at least 16,780 million colors, so it is essential to know when and why to use color and which colors (s) make most sense… or should you convert to black and white? Food for thought for the weekend.
For inspiration consider reading the biography, “Van Gogh: The Life”
“The sympathy an artist feels for certain lines and for certain colors will cause his soul to be reflected in them.”
~Vincent Van Gogh~
Or visit an online museum and study his work.
Have a great weekend,
I have heard many concerns about Adobe Creative Cloud and wanted to address one of the issues.
You can create and save Adobe Creative Cloud psd files to your hard drive and then use the Photoshop files (psd) in older versions of Adobe Photoshop (such as CS5, CS6) in the event that you decide not to continue with Adobe Creative Cloud.
The only snag is that if you use a new Adobe Creative Cloud feature, such as Shake Reduction, when you open the psd file (created in Adobe Creative Cloud) into an older Adobe Photoshop version, you will not be able to access that filter.
Otherwise the layers remain intact and you can continue editing the file.
Here are two screen shots to illustrate.
Using Adobe Creative Cloud for this first screenshot, I converted the image to a smart object and then added Adaptive Wide Angle and Shake Reduction filters as smart filters.
I saved the Creative Cloud generated psd file to my hard drive and then opened the psd file in Adobe Photoshop CS6. Notice the hazard icon. The Shake Reduction filter is grayed out and I can not access it, but I can continue to work on the file in CS6. The Adaptive Wide Angle filter will work in CS6.
It is a wise strategy to make a duplicate of your Photoshop files, flatten and save as archive images. Personally I make a high res tiff (no compression) and a high res jpg of images I have worked on.
Please feel free to share some of your Adobe Creative Cloud thoughts and concerns.
Have a great weekend,
I had the privilege of co-teaching a workshop in Tucson with the Garden Club of America Photo Study Group
They were a talented, motivated, intelligent, and creative group of people who I look forward to staying in touch with. Photography provides a wonderful venue for sharing visual passion.
Stay in touch!
I originally coined photopaintings for their marriage of my passions, photography and painting. Handpainting or hand tinting is a technique as old as photography itself, one I rediscovered back in the 1980s and helped bring back to the spotlight with my best selling book, The Art of Handpainting Photographs (Watson Guptill: Amphoto) The name photopaintings also nods to the late Henri Cartier Bresson, an iconic favorite, when reading his book, PhotoPortraits.
Why paint photos? When I decided to become a visual artist, I was concerned about the short life of color photography, it faded. To overcome the limits of the technology of the time, ironically, I stepped back in time and rediscovered the art of handpainting photographs. My Photopaintings begin as traditional darkroom hand printed gelatin silver b/w fiber print, a rarity these days, which are then enhanced with glazes of transparent oil paints and other artist’s mediums. As the New York Times says,
Cheryl Machat Dorskind applies subtle color to black-and-white prints to amplify the romantic feeling of mist shrouded coastal landscapes…her hand colored photographs celebrate natures’ misty moody character. Her deserted harbor, with its empty boat and unruffled water, seem to imply that human use would interrupt the spell. Pale pink and blue tones give the images a delicacy and an aura that suggests an uncommon moment.”
In the early 1990s, I quickly jumped on the digital train embracing the new technology. I adore all things digital and work with the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite, using a digital brush (with the help of a Wacom Intuos 5), blending colors and painting with light.
The exhibition presents a selection of my favorite handpainted silver gelatin photographs and a grouping from a current on going body of work (archival pigment prints) that celebrate the light and colors of the Hamptons.
The show will remain on view through August 11 at the Remsenburg Academy (130 South Road, Remsenburg, NY 11960). Gallery hours are Thursday – Sunday, 12 – 5 and by appointment 888-395-1666. The artist reception is on Friday, July 26, from 5-7 PM.
Learn with Cheryl Machat Dorskind
Join me for a Hamptons’ photo class
Photo Safaris – sea with me!
Photo Safaris are four hour guided photo walks through gorgeous terrain and incredible light. Experience the beach and ocean habitats through the eyes of your camera while enhancing your skills and meeting new people.
Click here and sign-up today and join one of the three offerings; space is limited!
Master your Camera
Do you want to learn how to make the most out of your camera? Are you curious what the M, S (or TV), A (or Av), and P mean on the control dial? (I’ll tell you right off that P does not equal portrait!)
Join me and move off of “automatic.” Master your camera and shoot like a pro!
Click here and sign-up today, (two class options)
Handpainting Photographs – a 2 day intensive
Learn the artistic techniques that made my first book, The Art of Handpainting Photography a best seller. If you want to turn your photography into works of art then join me for this two-day intensive and leave with the skills you need to handpaint photographs (with the digital brush and/or traditional darkroom paper).
Click here and sign-up today. Offered twice: July 28-30 and November 1-3.
These nine year old girls may just be tomorrow’s leaders.
by Cheryl Machat Dorskind
March is Women’s History Month
and many fine institutions pay homage, including the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, and NASA. Women’s’ History month began in 1995. Our local Westhampton Beach Brownie troop celebrated women by sponsoring a panel that included a woman lawyer, a woman police officer, a woman doctor, and a woman photographer (me).
The program began with us reciting the Brownie code (which I actually remembered) and then the panel members answered the Brownies’ questions. The fourth graders smiled brightly as they took notes with neon colored highlighters. The afternoon ended with strawberries, water (no juice or soda!), and of course, brownies.
Questions from our future leaders included:
Brownie: “How do you get an idea?”
Cheryl: “I often “get” an idea when it is least expected. I may be cleaning the house, driving my car, taking a shower, or dreaming. Ideas can come at any moment so I always carry a journal and camera with me.
Brownie: “What kind of camera do you have?”
Cheryl: “I have lots of cameras. The best camera is the one you have with you.”
Brownie: “When did you know you want to be a photographer?”
Cheryl: “I knew I wanted to be a photographer, a writer, and an artist since I was twelve years old. I was enrolled in painting classes, my father built me a darkroom (surprisingly one student knew what a darkroom was!), and I always loved to write. It is important to find your passion.”
One of America’s best kept secrets
by Cheryl Machat Dorskind
Today begins my “Intro to Digital Photography” class at Suffolk County Community College. It is a five hour weekly class that teaches both camera and Adobe Photoshop skills. I have been teaching at this community college for twelve years and I agree with Jill Biden who says that “Community Colleges are “one of America’s best-kept secrets.”
Like Jill Biden, I see instantly how “classes at community college impact the lives of students for the better.” Teaching photography is a wonderful thing, as I can see how my student’s vision is forever changed. Some go on to have the “I-want-to-be-a-photographer” bug, while others have a new means of communicating their hearts and minds.
I also teach photography and art related classes online at the Perfect Picture School of Photography since 2006. Online education is a totally different mindset, but I love it just the same. It is amazing how connected you can be with others through sharing photography, strategy, and vision. I teach four courses online (All About Color, More About Color, Painting Photos, and Photographing Children: Rising to the Challenge) and many students join me for more than one, and over the years become my friends.
So with 2013, I thought, what better way to begin my passion for teaching than to leap into the rapidly growing field of MOOCs and be a student. For those who are unaware, MOOC is an acronym for Massive Open Online Course and many say (Forbes, NY Times, etc) that this forum is the future of education.
Currently courses are offered by a few distinguished organizations including Coursera, edX and Udacity and they are designed by “academic rockstars” attended by hundreds of thousands of students from around the world. While students are rarely rewarded for credit, MOOC classes inspire enrollment for learning satisfaction. What a great concept…learn for the sake of learning.
So I took the leap and joined a class.There are hundreds to choose from. For the moment, I would rather not say which class I enrolled in. Instead, I’d like you to explore the three MOOC venues I mentioned above and let’s start a conversation about courses that have captured your eye.
I will return to this discussion as my class unfolds and share new experiences.
All my best,
Interesting people make interesting photographs, and it is interesting to see where they go with their lives. When I captured this photo of Michael Oren ten years ago (on Ilford Delta 400 professional film), he was promoting his book, “Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East.” Ten years later film has been replaced by digital photography and Michael Oren is Israel’s Ambassador to the United States.
This photo is one from a collection of images created during an August 2002 portrait session in Quiogue, New York at the home of a mutual friend. Of all the Hampton celebrities, authors, and dignitaries I have met and photographed over the years, Michael is one of my favorites – he is a great guy.
Happy New Year!
Inspired by Pulitzer Prize Winners Naifeh and Smith for their brilliant book, “Van Gogh: The Life”, I wanted to share some other great reads.
1. “How Music Works” – David Byrne
2.“The Life of Oscar” – Junot Diaz
Diaz, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, recently won a genius grant and has released a critically acclaimed collection of stories, “This is How You Lose Her.” His 2005 novel, “The Life of Oscar “ shows Diaz’s rhythm as a “syncopated stagger-step between opacity and transparency, exclusion and inclusion, defiance and desire.” (NY Times Leah Hager Cohen, 9/22/12)
3. “The Yellow Birds” – Kevin Powers
“A first novel as compact and powerful as a foot locker full of ammo” (Benjamin Percy, NY Times, 10/7/12). Written in a fractured structure, Percy explains that this style “serves the story in two ways. First, it turns readers into active participants, enlisting them in a sense as co-authors who fit together the many memories and guess at what terrible secret lies in wait …Because they lean forward instead of back, because they participate in piecing together the puzzle, they are made more culpable.”
4. “Live by Night” – Dennis Lehane
Janet Maslin claims it is “Crime Noir 101, as taught by the best of its current practitioners.” A nominal follow up to Lehane’s “The Given Day,” “Live by Night,” brings us back to Boston in the 20’s during prohibition. “Yet his idea of plain old crime is sophisticated, literary and barbed enough… that it makes this book a sentence-by-sentence pleasure. You are in the hands of an expert. And you’ll know it.” (Janet Maslin, NY Times 10/3/12)
5. “San Miguel” – T.C. Boyle
Described as “chilling and beautiful” and “a striking departure from his satirical novels of off-beat characters,” Jennifer Reese of NPR further says “But just when you’ve decided Boyle has written a horror novel, he introduces a long, tender love story that brings the narrative to its bittersweet conclusion.”
6. “The Round House” – Louise Erdrich
Winner of the 2012 National Book Award for fiction and author of “Love Medicine,” Erdrich’s novel is about “a teenage boy’s effort to investigate an attack on his mother on a North Dakota reservation, and his struggle to come to terms with the violence in their culture.” Erdrich accepted the award and said she wanted to “acknowledge the grace and endurance of native women.” She added: “This is a book about a huge case of injustice ongoing on reservations. Thank you for giving it a wider audience.”Leslie Kaufman, NY Times, November 15, 2012).
7. “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity” – Katherine Boo
The winner of the 2012 National Book Award for non – fiction, this book is about the “heart-rendering struggles of the dwellers of a slum in the shadow of luxury hotels in India.” In her acceptance speech Boo states, “If this prize means anything it is that small stories in so-called hidden places matter because they implicate and complicate what we consider to be the larger story, which is the story of people who do have political and economic powers.” (NY Times, November 15, 2012)
8. “Bel Canto” – Ann Patchett
Many critics complained that Ann Patchett should have won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year for her fantastic book “State of Wonder.” (To remind you, no one was awarded the Pulitzer fiction prize for 2012.) Ann Patchett is a book lover’s friend, she even opened a book store in Nashville, TN in 2011. Many consider “Bel Canto” her finest book. Here is a wonderful link if you are interested in learning more about Bel Canto arias. (http://www.nytimes.com/video/2008/11/28/arts/music/1194834022983/bel-canto.html)
Be sure to add my blog to your RSS feed as I will be following up with a Holiday Book list in early December. In the interim, I would like to hear what you are reading and in what format.
Happy Thanksgiving and be well,
For my daughter’s card, I scanned, cropped, and retouched a photo that captured her winning smile. For luck and good fortune I printed the image on a gold metallic paper.
Want to use gold in your card? Scan the metallic paper and then add the high resolution jpeg as a fill layer in Adobe Photoshop. Control the intensity of the gold paper (on faces) with an adjustment layer mask and brush. “Like” my facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/CherylMachatDorskindPhotography) and mention “gold” in a comment and I will send you a paper metallic jpeg
If you want to mail your holiday card by mid-December, it’s time to get started.
I will be speaking at the Photo Plus Expo at the Javitz Center in NYC on Wednesday, October 24th from 5-6:30 PM (session 2) as part of a panel discussing “Preparing Successful and Employable College Graduates.” Join me for a most interesting and important discussion.
Hope to see you Wednesday, October 24th,
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
Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, and the soul is the piano with many strings ~Kandinsky
“Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, and the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another purposely, to cause vibrations in the soul.”
Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) transformed color into a lyrical force, spectral and geometric musical equivalents. His work is profound and spiritual. “In Art” is a collection of his visions of art and soul, color and geometry.
Oscar winning actor Helen Mirren speaks about how she relaxes and finds inspiration by going to a museum. Her favorite artist is Kandinsky and in this video she talks about Kandinsky paintings and how they enrich her inner voice.
“When I draw something I remember it. The drawing is a reminder of the idea that caused me to record it in the first place.”
~ Michael Graves
New York Times (09/01/2012)
When I photograph something, I remember it. I have been photographing for a long time and still remember when I photographed images I come across in my archives. The photographs stamp an emotional ambiance and color my memory.
That is why I always have a camera with me. It helps me see. The point and shoot (or smart phone) becomes a sketch book. I don’t leave home without one.
Personally, I am more fluid with a small camera, I can easily observe and merge with the environment.
Have a great weekend,
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,
Friday Quote: “All our knowledge has its origin in perception.”
~Leonardo da Vinci
I like to walk. I walk the same five mile route almost every day and each time I walk this path, the light shifts, colors change, wildlife scatters, and the trees and flowers bend with the wind.
Here are a few these summer photos (all captured with my iphone):
Friday Quote: “When was the last time you laughed?”
~ Barbara Kruger
Barbara Kruger’s new installation “Belief + Doubt” features massive-type aphorisms in Kruger’s signature colors of red, black, and white. The exhibit officially opens on August 20 and will remain on display through 2014.
According to the Washington City Paper (8/8/12), Barbara Kruger is one of the greatest feminist artists of the 20th century and an important contributor to the fields of text-based art, appropriation, mass communication and corporate critique.
I was fortunate to be at the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum earlier this summer while the installation was in progress and I snapped a few photos.
All Images:”Belief + Doubt” – © Barbara Kruger, photos by Cheryl Machat Dorskind
Have a great weekend and a hearty laugh,
“Literature is the right use of language irrespective of the subject or reason of utterance” ~Evelyn Waugh
What is literature?
Friday Quote: “Literature is the right use of language irrespective of the subject or reason of utterance.”
And what is the “right use” asks Jim Holt in his NY Times editorial “Is Philosophy Literature?” (7/1/12) “Lucidity, elegance, individuality.” (Evelyn Waugh).
With summer nearly halfway over and I thought I’d share my summer reading list.
1. “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. A very quick and enjoyable summer escape.
2. “Song of the Lark” by Willa Cather is a beautifully written portrait of a heroic woman artist.
3. “Da Vinci’s Ghost” by Toby Lester. A fascinating historic journey into the Vitruvian Man’s impact on da Vinci.
4. “Sacred Geometry” by Stephen Skinner. A very palatable explanation of the Pythagorean theory and mystical history.
5. “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci” by Michael J. Gelb. An inspiring teaching resource easily translatable to the classroom.
6. “Quiet” by Susan Cain. A nice companion for those of us who have been labeled “too sensitive.” It’s filled with rich insights on the artist, the inventor, and introverts vs. extroverts.
7.“The Lower River” by Paul Theroux. The atmospheric, edgy novel finds its protagonist unprepared as he journeys back to primitive Africa. it’s almost as great as Coetzee’s haunting “Disgrace.”
8. “Canada” by Richard Ford. Andrew Dubois’s glowing review in the New York Times (June) sold me on this book. It is next on deck.
9. “Adobe Photoshop for Photographers (CS6)” by Martin Evening. Evening is an Adobe “Hall of Famer” and this book doesn’t disappoint.
10. “Picasso and Photography” Anne Baldassari. I never realized the impact of photography on Picasso’s art.
Would love to hear what you are reading. I bet my readers would too.
Yesterday I ate something that kept me in bed so I turned on the tv and watched the HBO documentary “Marina Abramovic′.” I was stunned by its intensity and sorry I missed her 2010 MOMA retrospective. If you were one of the 750,000 viewers I would like to hear your thoughts.
The documentary did not sit well with my queasy stomach, (I stopped it when the magician was eating his wine glass) but I wanted to share some of Marina’s wisdom. She is an artist (doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed as a “performance artist”) who embodies Zen philosophy. To her, intention and being in your authentic space is sacred. I was profoundly touched by her presence on screen.
“Artists have to be warrior, have to have this determination and the stamina to conquer, not to just cover new territory, but also to conquer himself and his weaknesses. So it doesn’t matter what type of work you are doing as an artist, the most important is which state of mind you are doing what you are doing. And performance is all about state of mind.”
“Artist is present”
From her manifest:
- An artist should not lie to himself or to others
- An artist should not steal from other artists
- An artist should not compromise for themselves or in regard to the art market
- An artist should not kill another human being
- An artist must not make themselves into an idol
- An artist should avoid falling in love with another artist
A recent NY Times interview with Marina concludes this blog, although I recommend watching the documentary first before you read the interview and judge Marina and her art. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/magazine/the-devil-in-marina-abramovic.html)
PS Feeling better, I finished watching the video last night.
“I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed” -Gary Winogrand
An unfortunate event.
Curious, I approach.
With my camera, I hone in.
I look behind.
And turn again and find another door.
With a camera you have the power to transform.
Friday Quote: “Once in awhile you get shown the light in the strangest of places, if you look at it right” ~ Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia
I went to see Andrew Wyeth’s paintings at the Brandywine River Museum and I thought to myself as I walked around the back path I had mistaken for the entrance, “Why go inside? I’d rather experience what Wyatt experienced directly.”
The riverbank, overgrown with foliage, was a magnificent playground of dappled light.
Can this be true? Buddhism is the 4th largest religion in the US. (James Atas “Buddhist Delight”, http://nyti.ms/NzHElT). With this bit of news, I thought I would re-share a recent blog post, “Ten Best Buddhist Books.” http://wp.me/p1UbOe-n3
Have a favorite to add? Send me a note.
New Ideas Fascinate Me
© 2012 Cheryl Machat Dorskind
Looking for a new motif for your photography? Well, Thomas Struth might have an answer. Struth bypassed photographer’s block finding his muse for over forty years in a broad range of subjects including urban environments, families, technology, and (today’s topic) museums. Struth doesn’t look at his breadth of subjects as personal reinvention, but rather fascination with new ideas,
“It has less to do with reinventing myself then with how I simply change as a person and how will new things come into my life, New things fascinate me and I’m interested in new problems.
Finding new new ideas requires an open heart and mind and curiosity. Struth wrote about the museum experience:
“The question is? What are people doing there. Why are they there? The answer is museums provide a protected space where people can reflect on history and on the perspective of history provided by other people before them.”
Museums create a protected space to unleash your imagination. In museums I loose myself and time. Willa Sibert Cather writes in “Song of the Lark” (free download on the Kindle),
“It was with a lightening of the heart, a feeling of throwing off the old miseries and old sorrows of the world, that she ran up the wide staircase to the pictures. There she liked best the ones that told stories… In that same room, there was a picture— Oh, that was the thing she ran upstairs so fast to see! That was her picture. She imagined that nobody cared for it but herself, and that it waited for her… She liked even the name of it, ‘The Song of the Lark’… She told herself that that picture was ‘right’… the almost boundless satisfaction she felt when she looked at the picture.”
Art will refuel a photographer and expand her repertoire. Use a camera for sketching. Capture history-making-images. Photograph (If the museum permits) a Mary Cassatt or Rembrandt for light, color, and composition.
So here’s to another happy Friday. I hope you find your muse,
© 2012 Cheryl Machat Dorskind
“Stare. It is the way to educate your eye… Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something.”
This Evans’ quote appears adjacent to his 1938 Subway and 1941 Bridgeport photographic series on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, one of six artists included in the show “I Spy: Photography and the Theater of the Street.”
Sound dramatic? At the time Evans’ “I Spy” experiment was a radical departure from his precision style compositions as he explored random expressions and gestures on the NYC subway and a street in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Motivated to step beyond his comfort zone, Evans recalled years later, “beware of this; don’t accept acclaim; be careful about being established.”
Evans’ goal was to make the camera an objective recording device. On the subway, Evans hid is Contax camera, the prefocused lens peaking out of his jacket. For the Bridgeport series, he used a 2 ¼ camera, his eye looking downward on the focusing screen. Evans clicked the shutter at whim, most strangers never knew.
Times have changed. You can not stare at strangers these days. The unspoken rule in New York City subways is “No eye contact.” And what about copyright laws? Can you really post photos of strangers without worrying about lawsuits or being punched in the face? As a side note: Evans was concerned about his subjects privacy and waited nearly twenty years to publish these works.
The exhibit “I Spy” creates a timeline of street photography and in addition to Walker Evans, includes the photographs of Harry Callahan, Robert Frank, Bruce Davidson, Philip-Lorca diCorcia and Beat Streuli. It is a terrific exhibit. On the one hand, the show is hung beautifully and the open gallery contrasts with the claustrophobic space of the subway and crowded city streets. Personally, like seeing a favorite band or celebrity on stage, I get a thrill from looking inches close to iconic photographs.
Seeing the contrast in size and color between Walker’s subway photos (1938) and Bruce Davidson’s (1980) images startle the senses. Davidson’s chromogenic large format photographs shock and recreate the dirty, crime ridden, dark, dank station atmosphere into the National Gallery of Art. The photos also reflect the changing times, whereby Davidson asked permission to photograph many of his subjects. His work was dangerous; he was mugged at knife point and accused of rape. Still, Davidson was addicted,
“In this grim, abusive, violent, and often beautiful reality of the subway,” he wrote, “we confront our mortality, contemplate our destiny, and experience both the beauty and the beast….Trapped inside” the moving train, we all hang on together.”
The issue of copyright is addressed with the inclusion of the larger than life size photographs by Philip-Lorca diCorcia, who was sued for privacy violation. In 2006, the New York State court ruled in favor of the photographer, citing
“On the grounds that his photographs were works of art and therefore constitutionally protected free speech, exempted from the reach of New York’s privacy law.”
The show brings us to date, with the work of Beat Streuli (2002-2012). Across the street at a coffee shop, a still camera was prefocused on an Astor place subway stop. The images are projected side-by-side on two flat screens, changing to the bustling New York city pedestrians rhythm, in “staccato fashion.”
The curator sums up the show’s relevancy to today’s ubiquitous camera, “In this age of cell phone and security cameras, YouTube and Google Earth, the photographs also make us aware of our uneasy relationship to the camera, suggesting both our fascination and discomfort with its intrusion into our daily lives. “
In closing, if you are in Washington DC, don’t miss this exhibit which closes August 5, 2012.
Final note: My online classes start this weekend. Why don’t you join me?
© 2012 Cheryl Machat Dorskind
Birthdays are complicated. Literally a birthday marks the day you were born, but psychologically the date is laced with expectations and hopeful celebrations.
I just had a birthday and thanks to social media, I marked the hatching of another year with many people around the world. I hope this new year continues to bring new friends.
Coincidentally (although I do not believe in coincidences) I was reading, “In Our Prime” by Patricia Cohen.
“The term Happy Birthday did not appear with any frequency in English language books until after the Civil War.”
Wow, I thought and read on,
“Receiving a card to mark one’s entrance into the world would have been as odd as being congratulated for growing out of a pair of shoes. The practice of sending cards began in 1870s and 1880s, when Christmas card producers retrofit leftover holiday postcards with birthday greetings. Cards created exclusively for the occasion did not appear until the twentieth century.”
I still send birthday cards and often create my own, but I admit my practice is in the minority. I only received four written cards, while I received many postings on facebook, private locked messages on G+, and emails. Surprisingly, I did not receive any e-greeting cards this year —could this be a sign of a downward trend? Interesting! In time, the history books will include a passage on how birthday cards became obsolete by 2020.
I decided to research birthdays as I was curious to know who else was born on May 25th in addition to a dear friend and my father-in-law. I also share my birthday with a new friend I met on facebook. When we first connected, I thought he was someone else, and when we realized the mistake we remained friends, an experiment to see how many degrees of separation there were between us. So far, I know of two: May 25, and Boston University.
A few things I discovered:
- Mary Cassatt was born on May 25th
- Historian Elizabeth Peck (www.las.illinois.edu) suspects birthdays went mainstream after WWII and by the 1950s they were a right to childhood for all.
- The Happy Birthday song was copyrighted in 1935 to Jessica Hill and remains protected until 2030!: http://blogcritics.org/music/article/the-absurdity-of-copyright-happy-birthday/
I listened to Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech to the University of Arts, Class of 2012, (Philadelphia, PA) the other night. What a pleasant surprise. It was rich with good advise and very inspiring. It has a special appeal for artists, photographers, writers, illustrators, graphic designers, and book lovers.
Previously, I knew a little about Gaiman’s work (my husband has Sandman statues and a collection of Gaiman’s comics) but now I am a fan.
Here are a few quotes:
“I learned to write by writing”
“You can be as creative as you need to be to have your work seen”
“The old rules are crumbling…so make up your own rules”
“Be wise because the world needs more wisdom….and if you cannot be wise, pretend you are wise and pretend like they would…Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.”
Happy Friday and a shout out to men and women in uniform servicing our country on Memorial Day weekend,
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,
Ten Suggested Buddhist Readings
Artists, writers, and photographers have been influenced by Eastern philosophy for centuries. One could argue that Henri Cartier Bresson’s famous coinage, The Decisive Moment, is the quintessential essence of Zen philosophy.
“To take a photograph means to recognize — simultaneously and within a fraction of a second — both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived form and meaning….
This attitude requires concentration, discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry.”
~Henri Cartier Bresson~
My husband Glenn, who is an English teacher and meditation instructor, has provided a list of his top ten Buddhist books with handy links.
by Cheryl Machat Dorskind
Intuition: Some call it a “sixth sense,” an “urge” a “feeling”, “knowing,” “pulling,” “drawing” us to pay attention, to create.
Harry Callahan, one of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century, was also a devoted photo instructor, chairing the photography department at Rhode Island School of Design from 1961-1973 (and continued teaching until retiring in 1977). I wish I had known him.
Harry Callahan spoke often of intuition in relation to his work. “Once we recognize a potential photograph, we begin to “see” in our mind the image that will convey the visual-emotional experience of the subject to the maximum degree—that is we visualize an image. Our visualization starts with the subject but takes into account the characteristic of the medium itself and of the specific equipment and materials we are using.”
“I know that, for instance, if I want to photograph on the beach or something, then I’ll walk around the beach and all of a sudden I see something. And then that’s the beginning to start working on something, and then maybe I’ll photograph that and walk down farther and find something very similar, and then keep working on that sort of a little theme, whatever it might be. And then the next time I go to the beach I might say, “well I want to go back and do that.”
PS My May online photo classes begin this weekend. Sign-up today and join me for a four weeks of photo inspiration to jump start your intuition:
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,
Registration for my online photography classes is open. Join me:
More About Color – NEW
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
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.
© 2012 Cheryl Machat Dorskind
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
As The Fog Rolls In My Vision Clears
Cheryl Machat Dorskind
As the fog rolls in, my vision clears.Its ethereal mist contrasts the ordinary and awakens my camera. Clicking away, I celebrate.
At f/22 (optimal for great depth of field), fog slows the shutter. I secure the camera on a tripod and set the ISO to 100 (fog is noisy). Fog has many nuances. Wanting accurate color, I shoot in RAW and set my white balance to “cloudy.” (Cloudy white balance counters the generally blue bias of fog and synchronizes all jpeg thumbnails). With image stabilization (aka vibration reduction) off and manual focus on (fog impairs auto focusing), I rely on a shutter release cable (or a self timer) to eliminate camera shake.
Perhaps the only unromantic thing about fog (from the camera’s perspective) is the dampness. Consider weather gear.
Exposure is tricky because of fog’s reflective nature. Manual exposure mode is your best bet and bracket even if you are shooting RAW by one stop, plus or minus, so you have these exposures to suit your post processing mood.
Notice how fog (gray) emphasizes green’s vibrancy. Try this: close your eyes, count to five and then look again. Do you see red? This phenomenon is known as simultaneous contrast.
New Classes begin April 6th!
Save the Date: Cheryl will be teaching a new class “More About Color” in June. Stay tuned and watch for the registration announcement.
This week’s Friday Quote begins a mini series: Truth?⸮ Photography’s credibility aura will be explored.
“A failed attempt to photograph reality. How foolish of me to have believed that it would be that easy. I had confused the appearances of trees and automobiles and people with reality itself and believed that a photograph of these appearances to be a photograph of it. It is a melancholy truth that I will never be able to photograph it and can only fail. I am a reflection photographing other reflections within a reflection. To photograph reality is to photograph nothing.”
Contacts volume 2
Duane Michals, an American born contemporary photographer (1932 – ), often makes use of photo sequences and text.
This past week’s New York Times Sunday Review (3/18/12) had a couple of interesting columns. As an author, photographer, and educator, I was especially focused on the articles about reading.
Pulitzer Prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri, in her column “My Life’s Sentences, “likens writing a sentence to taking a Polaroid. “To write,” she says “is to document and to develop at the same time.” And like a photographer who builds a portfolio over time with discerning edits, Lahiri’s work “accrues sentence by sentence. After an initial phase of sitting patiently, not so patiently, struggling to locate them, to pin them down, they begin arriving.”
The other article that grabbed my attention was “Your Brain on Fiction” by Annie Murphy Paul who explains why the experience of reading can feel so alive, “…. The brain, it seems, does not make much of a difference between reading [fiction] about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case the same neurological regions are stimulated.” This clarifies why I have avoided reading the last 30 pages of Disgrace by Nobel Prize winning author J.M Coetze; I simply am not ready to say goodbye to Professor Lurie and Melanie, Bev, Lucy, and Petrus.
Annie Murphy Paul’s column concludes, “Reading great literature…enlarges and improves us as human beings.”
And with this optimistic note, I will now finish Disgrace.
And……What’s on deck? Man Seeks God, by Eric Weiner (hardcover), Vincent (900+ paged book but worth its weight for its cotton rag deckle-edged paper), The Tourist (paperback) by Olen Steinhauer, and The Marriage Plot (Kindle) by Jeffrey Eugenides. On my iPad, I’ll continue with Mari Smith’s The New Relationship Marketing.
And how about you. Reading anything noteworthy that you’d like to share?
“A lot of the early modern artists believed that art could change the world. A lot of artists today don’t’ believe that. Well, I do…The urge to depict and the longing to see depiction is very strong and deep within us. It’s a 5,000 year old longing — we see it all the way back to the cave paintings — this need to render the world. Art is about correspondences — making connections with the world and with each other.”
David Hockney, considered by many as one of the world’s greatest living artists ( 1937 – ) is a painter, printmaker, photographer, and stage designer. His works are characterized by economy of technique and a preoccupation with light and frank realism.
He has a lot to say. Here are a few books to read more of his insights. They might just give you a creative jolt.
Couldn’t resist one more quote:
“I think that the way we depict space has a great deal to do with how we behave in it.”
Have a great weekend,
“Technical prowess, I know just as much as I need to know and no more. I am interested in seeing the thing. I could tell you how a view camera works, I could probably explain it to you, but I only know that from experience. I knew nothing about it before I bought one. I had some wild concept that you can change space, which… you can. But, once I bought the view camera, everything else was just eyeballing it…If the thing doesn’t look like the way I want it to look, I’ll try something else.”
PRODUCER: Tina Barney, 1994
DIRECTOR: Mark Trottenberg
Jan Groover died on January 1, 2012; she was 68 years old. “Her relentlessly formal still lifes of mundane objects brought a sense of Renaissance stateliness to postmodern photography…The pictures resonated not only as subtle documents of feminism, but also as unusually beautiful investigations of the fictions that are inseparable from facts in the conventions of photography. (Randy Kennedy, The New York Times, January 11, 2012).
Here is a link to her works in the MOMA collection.
“Compose and Wait” ~Sam Abell
“One of the things that I most believe in is the compose and wait philosophy of photography. It’s a very satisfying, almost spiritual way to photograph. Life isn’t’ knocking you around, life isn’t controlling you. You have picked your place, you’ve picked your scene, you’ve picked your light, you’ve done all the decision making and you are waiting for the moment to come to you.”
For over forty years (born 1945) Sam Abell has been a photographer, educator, author, and mentor. He learned photography from his father at their home in Sylvania, Ohio where he lived for eighteen years. Abell states that the flat landscape of Sylvania —one of the flattest landscapes in North America — developed his signature composition style;
“the background is level, horizontal, and cleanly divides the frame, top-to-bottom and near-to-far. I find it, in addition to it being a graphic element, to be an optimistic or positive element… The horizon to me always meant possibilities…”
I was not surprised to see the cover of the New York Times Sunday Arts section (2/19/12) feature a rare non-costumed Cindy Sherman self-portrait for its lead article. And I thought, of course, “Why hire a photographer when she can photograph herself…best…as she wants to be seen?”
Once again Cindy Sherman makes front page art news in the New York Times Weekend Arts, today (2/24/12), but this time she is back in costume. Her exhibit at the MOMA is one not to be missed. Here are some Cindy Sherman Quotes:
“None of the characters are me. They’re everything but me. If it seems too close to me, it’s rejected.”
“My work is not about fantasizing about characters or situations……When I’m doing the characters I really don’t feel it is something I’m building out of my fantasies, my dreams…”
“Sometimes I would play in my room out of curiosity to see what makeup can do. Sometimes become a character…”
The Photographer’s Quote
“I was good at copying things, but I didn’t really have ideas of what I wanted to do with painting. That was when I thought, ‘Why am I wasting my time elaborately copying things when I could use a camera?’”
Carol Vogel, NY Times (2/19/12)
On Hiring Models
“Whenever I tried to hire people or use friends or family, even if I paid them, I felt like I had to entertain them. When I’m working alone, I can push myself. And I don’t complain.”
Carol Vogel, NY Times (2/19/12)
From the Critics
“The contradictory and complex readings of her work reinforce its ongoing relevance to multiple audiences. More than ever, identity is malleable and fluid and her photographs confirm this.”
Ms. Respini (NY Times 2/19/2012)
Her exhibition at MOMA will be on view through June11, 2012
“Andre Kertesz has two qualities which are essential for a great photographer: an insatiable curiosity about life and a precise sense of form.”
Born in Hungry in 1894, Kertesz was self taught. When asked what interested him most, he replied, “Everything….The camera is a sketchbook…I made many many mistakes and learned…Everything I did was exactly composed…The camera is my tool. Through it I give a reason to everything around me.”
1983 BBC Series
“Photographing children requires total attention to their state of mind—a state that changes constantly from smiles to tears to wonder. These glimpses of magic slowly unveil, but illusively disappear the moment the photographer tries to capture them. Like an audience engrossed in the subtle character shifts of an actor, the photographer watches the child and waits for cues. “
~Cheryl Machat Dorskind
From my book, The Art of Photographing Children
Join me for my online class, “Photographing Children: Rising to the Challenge”
Class begins this weekend!
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,
Photographing children looks easy, but children typically do not want you to photograph them—at least not on your terms. Photographing your own children can be especially challenging. Here are some tips that might help.
1. Be Prepared, Plan Ahead
Children require complete focus; be-here-now must be the motto. Determine the camera settings beforehand so you are not distracted by technicalities and can focus on your subjects. Establish the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed based upon the lighting conditions you will encounter. As a general rule: Bright Sun ISO 100, bright but cloudy ISO 200, late in the afternoon ISO 400, if sports are the subject ISO 800 (provided you have a newer camera and have tested your noise factor).
For this session, I kept it simple. White backdrop, natural afternoon sunlight flooding the studio, with an on-camera flash and a Gary Fong cloud diffuser. Photographing with a Canon 5D MII, I often shoot at a high ISO so I havethe flexibility of working with a fast shutter and/or an aperture of my choice. While f/2 lenses are wonderful to own, I do not as a rule use them for children (or families). Children move unpredictability and therefore a narroweraperture (f/11 or smaller) provides a sharper focus safety net.
2. Be Patient
Photographing children requires an abundance of patience and alertness. Henri Cartier Bresson likened this readiness to the mind of a hunter, always ready for the moment to reveal itself. You too must intuit, quickly grabbing their spirit in an unveiled smile or a twinkle in the eyes.
Serendipity can bring you to the right place at the right time and you instinctively connect with the Decisive Moment, but photographing children requires waiting, coaxing, and waiting some more. Be patient, make luck happen.
3. Create an Environment that Encourages Imagination
Young children will forget about you and your camera if you create an environment that allows them to imagine. Relating to the subject is essential. How do you relate to a one year old or an 18 year old? How do you encourage your own child to go with the flow and allow you to photograph them with the new camera you received as a Holiday gift?
Ask the child to perform for you. To relax Ariel, I asked her to show me her new ballet steps. Once she was finished dancing, she was willing to sit for a moment, and during that moment I was able to capture a few great pictures.
An adult, standing tall will make the child uptight. To allow the imagination to wander, I am often on my knees or lying on my stomach to meet the children’s gaze. Once you have established the environment whereby you are forgotten, you have the ability to capture sweet moments.
Sometimes it helps to ask the parents to leave, while other times, the parents provide a safety net that adds to the environment you are creating.
4. Learn to Use the “Back Focus Button”
Most children do not want to sit still (when asked), so have your eye on the viewfinder, finger on the shutter, focus locked. Using the back button auto focus is a big help. This enables you to split the functions: the thumb locks the focus while the index finger is ready at the shutter. With practice, back button auto focus will enable you to easily focus and refocus while the child moves (without accidentally clicking the shutter). Check your camera manual to learn about this custom feature.
5. Location, Location, Location
Rather than asking the child to relax in a studio, bring the studio outdoors. Most children love the beach, the park, or their own backyard.
Children will find the water’s edge truly exhilarating.
This child was hot, tired, and pouting, so I gave her my hat and she felt a lot better.
Mindy was a doll and wanted to be helpful with her large family of 10 children! I gladly crowned her my third assistant and our bond helped create some awesome photographs.
To keep the moment spontaneous, we kept chasing the light. The constant movement kept the boys smiling (and conspiring) long enough for me to grab memorable photos.
6. Keep the Clothes Simple
A quick way to enhance your children portraits is to plan the wardrobe. If you are going out with the family, then spend a few minutes making sure that the clothes coordinate in color and that logos are minimal—or better yet, invisible. Match color value with location. For instance, if you are going to the park, bold primary colors might be appropriate, whereas at the beach, khaki or denim work well.
There are differing opinions on whether the whole family should be wearing the same colors. In these photos above, you will find that the families are dressed in matching outfits, but this is not a rule written in stone. The following images illustrate how you can successfully mix and match colors in a family portrait.
Remember, your mood will be mirrored in the photos you capture. Photograph with an open and joyful heart.
Join me for a class in 2012:
All my best,
Author of The Art of Photographing Children
Autographed copies are available!
“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