Yesterday I attended a photography workshop called Expanding Your Vision Photography Workshop. It was a cold, damp, and overcast — not a hint of sun in the sky — but I learned a lot.
One thing that the instructor, photographer, Loren Fisher, said left an impression on me. He said that he sees a lot of technically excellent photographs. They have a sharp focus, have the right shutter speed and depth of field, and the exposure is "dialled in". But he thinks the photographs lack ”soul”.
He then went on to explain what he meant and what we — the group of photographs attending the class — could do to bring some soul back to our images.
He challenged us to slow down and think — think — about what we wanted our photographs to say.
I told him that sometimes I go out into the woods and return with nothing on the storage card. He said that the problem was that sometimes we might get stuck into seeing a certain way. We think there are no great photos here. We get stuck in a rut. Then he said something else that I considered profound, “Believing is seeing”.
To prove his point, he sent us outside — it was fracking cold — to shoot. For the first assignment, he gave us fifteen minutes to shoot just ONE photo. But we had to be prepared to explain to the group why and what about the photo appealed to us. There were a few more assignments throughout the day, and all the assignments required us to restrict ourselves in some way. We could only shoot at one focal length. We could not chimp. We had time limits. The goal was to force us to think and be intentional about our photography.
I choose to use my Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G lens (FOV equivalent to 52mm full-frame). It’s my favourite lens. It’s the only lens I own where the markings on the lens body have started to fade from use. It’s small. I love this lens. Tears came to my eyes as I wrote that. I love this lens. We are best friends. Soulmates.
The workshop had me thinking about my photography. For a while, I have felt that while my technical photography skills were excellent, many of my images lacked “soul”. They don’t reflect the emotions I felt when I saw the scene before me. I want to get better at that. Loren’s workshop helped me realise that “there is more than one answer”.
I had struggled all week with ideas on how to answer the “curves” challenge. While walking around Somerville, New Jersey, freezing my fingers while trying to complete each challenge, I had an idea. Why not photograph some of the archways at Princeton University?
I have photographed the campus many times before. I usually see Princeton University as a boring photographic opportunity. “Been there, done that”. But with a newfound thought process about how to approach the challenge, I drove over to the campus. I was intentional. Before I left, I thought about what I wanted to shoot. What images could I take that would convey the idea of curves? I created a detailed shot list — Holder Hall, East Pyne, Nassau Hall, Firestone Library.
I parked in the Spring Street parking deck and walked down South Tulane St. toward Princeton University. Once on campus, I walked around, looking at the Firestone Library from different viewpoints. Why the Firestone Library? There are only a few curved features on the building.
Besides the Tuesday Photo Challenge, I am participating in a monthly photo challenge called Changing Seasons. It’s almost the end of March, and I wanted to capture some photos that portrayed Princeton University in March. There are a few iconic — aka, heavily photographed — images of the university. The Firestone Library is one of them. So is East Pyne, Nassau Hall, and the Princeton University Chapel. I photographed all of those and then made my way over Holder Hall.
I added one more restriction and completed another challenge; Mark Garbowski created the ONE Everything Challenge.
... when I was out shooting I came up with the idea of the ONE EVERYTHING Photo Challenge: starting with ONE Camera, ONE lens, and ONE hour to take all your images: try to get as many as possible that you are happy with those tools and limited time.Mark Garbowski
When he returned home from his walk, Mark added one more thing to the challenge. He would limit his post-processing to one hour.
And so the ONE EVERYTHING Challenge Rules are:
ONE Hour to Shoot
ONE Hour to Edit.
For the curves challenge, my intention was to photograph the walkway between Holder Hall and Hamilton Hall and Madison Hall. The archway is full of curves. The hallway reminds me of something one might see in a Harry Potter movie.
I took three bracketed images and combined them in Photomatix Pro. I messed around with various options before I settled on this image. I love how the HDR brings out the texture of the stone and the light accentuates the curves of the arches. I wanted to create a sense of age and mystery. Where does that door lead to? What does it feel like walking this long hallway late at night?
What do you think? Does the image complete the challenge successfully?