Saturday, October 23, 2010

Critiquing Chuck: 2

As I often mention, I love Chuck's work. In this post, I'll talk about a few shots I've selected of his and offer my critique on them. Unlike the last "critiquing chuck" post, these were chosen because of a running theme.

On these first two shots (below), the boys are gathered in and around an armchair by the window, focusing intensely. Chuck has shared pictures of his living room (think back to the last post of the couch and frames on the wall, etc) and has even stated himself that it isn't very big. Yet if you study the many shots he's taken there, they don't feel redundant or "tired". How is that?

The first shot is a bit more complex than the others in this post. There are two equally interesting subjects with divergent lines of interest. There are two distinct expressions and emotions conveyed here as well. The composition is very straightforward but nicely incorporates the important elements, omitting items which would clutter or detract from the scene. The second image is similar but Chuck is slightly farther away from the boys. These two images look to have been taken around the same time with the same focal length (I didn't view metadata, so I might be wrong on this) yet tell two parts of a larger story of a slow morning. The details are wonderful: the object of attention, the game system, is prominent, the over-sized watch, the "bed head", wife beater and boxer briefs.

This image below was taken in the same exact chair as the shots above but from an oblique angle, rather than straight on. I love the blanket which engulfs his little body. I love the light from the large window splashing all over him. I love the squished cheek where his hand meets his cheek from underneath the blanket.

To continue our "one angle of the living room" theme: Below is an older image of Chuck's but there are several things to love about it. Chuck uses the clutter in the room to his advantage. Kids make messes and can be messy. Why try to portray an immaculate house in your images if it isn't ALWAYS truly immaculate? I find these kinds of images endearing, personally, and have plenty of "clutter" images myself. Again, the same chair is in the background (as the other shots) but the angle is slightly different and the composition has a different feel to it. What is most interesting, and should be, are the expressions of those boys, both intently watching the television screen. It offers a quiet moment among the busy-ness and loud natures of most young boys.

What really makes these shots work is not brilliant composition (although, they're well composed images), it's not lighting (hard to beat window light, though), and it's not the gear he used (though Chuck uses stellar gear): what made these shots work is the story they contain and the expressions of his little subjects. They're interesting. They're telling. They're endearing....and they're not even my kids (sadly, i haven't met this famous family).

There are many things that CAN make a great photograph but what consistently makes a good image work is emotion, expression, gestures, etc., things which are telling of the subject. Learn from Chuck. All of the things he does well pale in comparison to his ability to capture genuine emotions and moments which tell a story about his subjects (in this case, family). With all of the terminology and technique and gear relating to photography, it can be quite overwhelming. Chuck's solution for a majority of his shots is the 1ds2 camera body and the 35L. Simplicity. What we should value, above all else, is content in an image. Hopefully, the simplicity and beauty of these images above display that principle well.

Thanks for letting me use your images, Chuck. Hope this is useful, guys.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Expanding your family photojournalism

hey guys-something i alluded to a few posts back was shooting outside of your immediate family-we've primarily talked about capturing our own son(s) or daughter(s) but FPJ can include so much more-personally, i enjoy photographing my boys as they interact in places outside of our home-it's a nice change in venue and more family members (as potential subjects) offer opportunities for a range of unique interactions and moments, not to mention more complex and layered images-my family also enjoys my perspective on our family gatherings-just apply the same approach we've discussed in searching for moments, carefully composing, being patient, etc.-it's also great practice to get out and try to create shots-here are some i've taken with my extended family with a few notes:

something i love to do is take a unique angle on an image-their mom wanted them to "cheese" for the camera-I make a very intentional and conscious decision not to ask my children to smile-instead, i took a very different angle with a 50mm lens and waited for the expression i wanted

our family rents a club house (because there are so many of us) every Easter with a playground in back-the girls were playing on the playground and i decided i really wanted a shot as they ascended the stairs-i liked the spacing between the girls and tilted my camera (slightly) to enhance the sense of movement-the moment i released the shutter was important to me here-a second or two earlier and they wouldn't have filled the frame (right to left)-a second later and i would have "amputated" a hand or two

this shot, like many of mine, comes from studying and observing my subjects-i watched her play for a while, trying to position myself well in preparation for a shot-as she climbed through the opening, i saw something and quickly composed-as she grabbed the rail and leaned to her right, i snapped the shutter-you can teach yourself to be in the right place at the right time and to anticipate moments-i highly encourage this discipline

this was at a small gathering for a birthday party-my grandmother is in the foreground-i shot from an angle that layered them and gave each person their own distinctive space in the image-i chose to focus on my cousin here and use my grandmother as a natural framing element, giving both context and interpretation to my cousin's laughter

something i very consciously set out to do and continue is that i take my camera to my grandmother's every time i visit-i want to document her, capture the wonderful personality I've grown up with, and capture the essence of who she is-no small task but i can tell her story cumulatively-one thing i love about her is her sense of humor-i like the composition here, it's simple and nothing advanced or brilliant (though notice that even with a straight forward comp like this, i still tried to keep separation between my grandmother and cousin behind her)-the content is what makes this shot special, the genuine moment of laughter that i've experienced a thousand times

the angle was important to me here-the girls were doing acrobatics on the swing set and a standard, straight forward shot wouldn't convey that as well-i also like the motion blur and softness to the image-it all conveys action and motion and something fleeting that i was fortunate to capture

there are several things happening here at once-i really like that in an image-it tells its own story

something i love about the photography is its ability to stop a moment or an expression, for that matter-there's an intensity in her gaze-in this instance, i don't provide the person she was gazing towards-i like the mystery of leaving out that element-it's open to interpretation by any given viewer-plus, who says only "smiling kid shots" are worth shooting?

i really hope this encourages you to take your photography to your family (not just your camera to someone's house, if that makes sense)-document things that capture your family as they truly are, their quirks, their personalities, etc-we have a unique perspective that can contribute to how people see themselves and how they remember their lives-help shape that-you and your family will greatly value that over the years

thanks for stopping by, guys/gals