Oct 31, 2013

Details Matter. Watch and Wait

Something I often find myself telling my students, especially early on in their picture making is to look for the decent details in a scenario, and then be sure to make them part of the picture. It is often in the details that an image slides neatly away from the mundane and towards something more profound. (And by profound, I don't necessarily mean deep and contemplative).

But it is also in the details that an image can be lost. If we are to believe the Americans (and look where that landed them, hence the caution) details can be likened to debt. There is good detail and bad detail, as there might be good debt and bad debt. Good debt or good detail is progressive, contributory and additive. Bad debt or bad detail is regressive, distracting and subtractive.

As in all photographs, it is about seeing and making others see. Its about moments used to say something in some way. Sometimes those moments are there for the picking given the immobile detail presented to you by your scene. Other times they are fleeting and it is more about fast paced anticipation and less about slow and lingering contemplation. Perhaps I should write a little more on this at some stage... .

I think photographers are often 'detail aware', but unfortunately this also means that they tend to fixate on their given subject and turn a 'blind eye' to the detail.Who hasn't taken a picture only to find after the moment that there is a distracting branch/post/piece of grass etc sticking out of their subjects ear/head/body? Years ago, if you will indulge me, I snapped a shot of a kid reacting to an mechanical shark that moved, blinked and bared its teeth - the shark that is not the kid! Sadly, in the background there was some sort of pot plant that was surely out of place in the hall let alone my picture. The resultant image was an unconvincingly intrigued child looking on as the shark appeared to chew grass!

As already alluded to, this is not only about "decisive moments" a la Henri Cartier-Bresson. It is that but it is also where I tend to have a bit of fun (or at least look for opportunities to do so).

The image below was taken at a local pub. The setting was innocent enough and as a (South) African journalist I am pre programmed to consider representation and race at all times. So it was great to have racially diverse subjects sitting right there. Composing the image I couldn't help noticing a dawdle of elderly people fussing in the doorway of a shop across the road. As is often the case with the elderly there is all sorts of strange dilemmas that need to be addressed on a moment by moment basis. So I just watched and waited. There was no suddenness to the situation - no voila at all. I love the dichotomy of young versus old captured in the image and I am dying to imagine what people might think they could be saying to each other? I have a similar shot sans the group in the background, but it just seems a little less without the cameo going on in the background.

Canon EOS 7D. Sigma 18-50mm at 33mm. ISO 100, f/10 @1/90th. External flash, remotely fired and de-powered to 1/4

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