Forecast for the Future

"Every individual without exception bears a potential writer within himself. The reason is that everyone has trouble accepting the fact that he will disappear unheard of and unnoticed in an indifferent universe, and everyone wants to make himself into a universe of words before it's too late. 

Once the writer in every individual comes to life (and that time is not that far off), we are in for an age of universal deafness and lack of understanding."

- Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

Monday, February 25, 2008

Week 7, Day 7: Photography

I had a wonderful afternoon and evening today with good friend Spiffae aka Ben D, semi-official Hyperliving photographer.

Before the efforts of this year's Hyperliving endeavors, I had basically never attempted to do any photography (a fact certainly made clear by the middling non-Ben D images I've put on display). Like many things, taking better photographs is "always something I've wanted to learn how to do," but I've never really owned a camera before and I've also never felt focused enough to feel ready to do it right.

The decision to take photos today came from a suggestion from good friend Steve to do a week of Hyperliving of shooting a roll of film each day. A great week, i thought, but one that would probably be wasted if I didn't learn some basics of phototaking and camera use before getting started. I told Ben about the idea and he suggested I come by his place for a tutorial.

I arrived yesterday around 2:30 and Ben began to break photos down most simply: "90% of photography," he said, "is understanding light. And the main factor after that for people to take good photos is whether or not they know how to use their cameras."

Ben went on to explain to me by drawing on a piece of paper (photo of which to come later) the concept of a spectrum of light and demonstrating how in a total arbitrary spectrum of 0-100 light to dark, a camera will only take a slice of that light and that it is up to the photographer to figure out how to best utilize the camera to capture an image within that spectrum without having part of the shot bleed white or go dark. Continuing on these lines, he then explained that the three basic principles of a camera that a photographer should understand are the light settings, the aperture (f-hole), and the ISO (film speed). By understanding what each of these are, a photographer can assess her or his environment and figure out the best way to take a photo (without a flash, ideally).

We didn't have a film camera on hand to use, but to demonstrate, Ben set his DSLR (Canon EOS 20D) to manual and had me run through the apartment with some exercises. By taking one photo of him sitting in his chair, he explained, I would be able to get a light reading that I would be able to use for the entire room. I walked around testing it out and, sure enough, he was right. He explained that this is one of the ways that digital cameras fuck with people's understandings of photography, because the automatic settings of a digital will reset and change the light settings everytime you move the camera and take another photo. In one sense, this is an attempt to get the best photo each time out, but it also does a disservice to the photographer because it can mean that a series of photos in one room taken within seconds of each other may all look and feel completely differently, despite no desire for changes by the photographer her or himself.

Ben spent a while longer explaining this and other technical concepts to me before concluding his lesson with a review of some photo books by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Franks, and others. "Basically," he said, "these people know what they're doing."

We then went outside and shot some photos, with Ben along the way offering suggestions on good photos, landscapes and light settings:
"That'll never work."
"Right there. Yes."
"I will advise that smoking while attempting to learn photography on a nice camera is not a recipe for success."
"Ben, honestly, have you been listening to anything I'm saying?"

In all seriousness though, Ben is a great teacher and I think I came away with some solid photos (I shot about 60). Here are 12 I liked for different reasons--yes, they're all shitty too for one reason or another, but I'm ok with them. I will try to add a doctored route Google Map when I get a chance, but for now know that these were all taken in Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens.

[Some of these look kind of dark on my old Powerbook laptop screen, but they all looked bright enough on Ben's spiffy flatscreens, so I'll cross my fingers they're still ok now. Also, Ben spent some time showing me how to do Photoshop editing, but I haven't the time to do that now. Perhaps a later project for my photo week down the road.]

This is what you call the "cheap n' easy any-retard-can-win" postcard photo

Ah, Brooklyn. Old and new.

I originally centered this signpost, but Ben suggested lefting it and he was right.

I wish i lived inside of this cylinder.

Ben says people still buy chicken from here.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have been, and may still be, one of those weekend postcard photographers. You couldnt be more right.

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