Today we have a guest post by Younes Bounhar a talented photographer and writer from Canada. For more information on Younes visit his website and blog.
A quick glance on any photography forum and you will soon realize that while there are a few photographers who have a clear identifiable style, most photographs are very similar as if cooked in the same pot. As in every discipline, most enthusiasts start out by trying to emulate the work of the great masters. That often translates into copying the style, the compositions even the locations (ever heard the expression “tripod holes”?) that these masters have, well, mastered. However, as you delve deeper into your art, you start wondering where you should go with your photography after you have photographed your favourite icons and followed the footsteps of the Muenchs, Wolfes or Rowells of this world. Even from a professional standpoint, given the intense competition in the field, how do you set yourself apart from the next photographer? So how do you develop your own, unique style? While there is no magic solution or standard answer, here is a little food for thought to help point you in the right direction.
1- Study the work of other artists
You are probably, wondering what on earth I am talking about since I have just said that you have to try and develop your own style. First, when I talk about artists, I mean it in a general sense, not just photographers, but painters, architects and designers. Painters can teach you how they handle light, what makes a good composition. Architects will show you the power of curves, lines and patterns. In the work of designers you can learn how to combine colours to convey your message. By getting acquainted with the work of other artists, you will seamlessly incorporate some of the elements that they use into your own photographs and have a more deliberate and controlled approach to your art.
2- Get off the beaten path
As a landscape photographer, I often find myself drawn to the so-called “photographic icon”. Who hasn’t dreamt of shooting Mesa Arch, Antelope Canyon or Horseshoe bend? While these icons for obvious reasons, our planet has no shortage of stunning, photogenic locations. While most photographers are content with “roadside” photo opportunities, the most rewarding locations are those that are seldom visited or secluded. In addition to coming out with some unique shots, you also get to experience nature at its best. There is nothing more rewarding than waking up in the middle of nowhere, knowing that there is just you and Mother Nature around.
3- Try something different
When I first dabbled into photography all I cared about was landscape, all I shot was landscape. Since I don’t live in photo icon hotzone, I quickly spent the photogenic potential of my area and found myself out of new things to photograph. My next decision proved to be instrumental in developing my skills. As I have better access to urban zones, I thought that I could shoot buildings and urban areas in a self-imposed assignment to improve my eye for lines and patterns. Not only have I discovered an exciting area of photography, but the skills I learned photographing buildings have been central to my landscape/nature photography as well. As I become more apt at capturing patterns in buildings, it became easier to see and frame photo opportunities in nature. That said, you don’t have to change disciplines to “try something different”. All you need to do is get slightly out of your comfort zone, and learn to see the world differently. If you shoot wide-angle scenics exclusively, trade your wide-angle lens for your telephoto or macro lenses and aim for more intimate nature photography. Inversely, if you are more at ease with a telephoto, trade it for a wide-angle.
4- Break the rules
One of the main drivers of uniformity in photographs is our tendency to want to follow rules. Obviously, these rules exist for a reason and do come in handy at times. That said, you have to learn to think outside of the box if you want to take your photography to another level. Your gut tells you to use the rule of thirds? Don’t listen and put your horizon right in the middle. The magic hour only happens at dawn and dusk, right? Does that mean you can’t take amazing shots during the remaining 23 hours of the day? Certainly not! I have seen amazing pictures taken right at noon, others, in the middle of the night. Basically, just keep your mind open for possibilities and don’t restrict yourself simply because it is a “rule”.
5- Take photography workshops
I have been very fortunate to attend an Art Wolfe workshop a few months ago and I have to admit that it has had a tremendous impact on my approach to photography. Again, the idea here is not to go out there and replicate everything your instructor does or tells you. Instead, you should watch and listen carefully to the way he or she approaches their art. It can be really an eye-opening experience when you are looking at a scene that inspires you nothing, and have someone come in and show you five or six different ways to look at it! You may not like everything you are told; in fact, you could even dismiss some of it. However, back on the field, once on your own, you can surprise yourself identifying photo opportunities that you wouldn’t have noticed before.
While I hope these pointers may have been of some help, there is one last element I would like to stress: just remember why you are into this in the first place and make sure you enjoy what you do. Keep the passion alive, and you are sure to succeed in whatever you set your mind to!
February 19th 2010 marks the 20th Anniversary of Adobe Photoshop® and Adobe is getting together with the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) to celebrate the anniversary of the software that changed the face of photography and design forever.
The Photoshop 20th anniversary celebration on February 18th at 7:30 p.m. pst will be streamed LIVE and feature Photoshop luminaries including NAPP’s Scott Kelby, John Loiacono,Adobe Senior Vice President and General Manager, Creative Solutions Business Unit, NAPP Photoshop gurus Dave Cross and Matt Kloskowski, Adobe Photoshop star Russell Brown, and other key members of the Adobe Photoshop team. This fun-filled night will feature a walk through Photoshop history, a glimpse into the future, and celebrates all things Photoshop.
Icebergs and ice are an increasingly important topic in recent years, as climate change is becoming more of a resounding, everyday issue. On a recent trip to Antarctica I developed a personal project of capturing the ice in as artistic of a way as possible. During the day, cruise ship passengers disembarked in Zodiacs to go ashore and view penguins. I have photographed a lot of penguins, so my mission became the ice that was floating in the vicinity. On this particular trip I asked a Zodiac driver to take me over to a distant iceberg that I could see towering over all of the other icebergs. It looked almost like a cathedral, standing out there over a 150 feet above its surrounding neighbors.
This first image shows the dramatic angle of the pinnacle of ice as it’s surrounded by smaller icebergs. As usual I circled my subject and look at it from all angles before settling on an image.
As we travel around the iceberg it takes on a slightly different shape. This new vantage point allows me to incorporate more of the surrounding icebergs in the foreground.
With image number three I am able to incorporate a foreground “bergie bit” (little piece of iceberg) that is found floating around its larger cousins. I am using a 16-35mm wide angle zoom lens and a polarizer to compose this image. My main objective is to balance the foreground ice with the iceberg in the distance.
I put on my 70-200mm zoom and circled back around to the location where I captured my initial composition in image 1. I chose to shoot a vertical to emphasize the vertical sweep of this dramatic iceberg.
I noticed a distant iceberg with an arch and directed the Zodiac to it. As we headed over to it I put my wide angle zoom back on. I circled this iceberg looking for a point of view in which to include with my initial perspective.
This composition reveals the first iceberg in a very beautiful way. I also love the way the green arch surrounds the distant blue icebergs, and how the wide angle gives the image a nice perspective by incorporating some of the blue green ice just below the surface.
I decided to go back to my 70-200 to try to pull in that distant iceberg. This lens allowed me to compress the scene while still keeping the strong foreground element of the arched iceberg in my composition. However, because I am further away now, you can see the blue sky above the arched iceberg. I have lost the drama that I had with the last image.
I zoomed in to try and eliminate the sky from the previous shot,but in doing so I have lost the top of the distant iceberg.
This is my favorite image in the series. It conveys the drama of the arch, it frames the iceberg in the distance perfectly, and it has a nice sense of color with the blues and greens.
The result is 3 or 4 distinctly different compositions of the same iceberg, which demonstrates how perseverance and a change of perspective can yield a stronger set of images.
Are we all about pretty pictures? This is a question that has been asked many times and in many forums to define the work that conservation photographers do. The real question however, is, do we want to focus on inspiring people, or do we aim to shock them?
There is a constant tension in finding the right balance between images that seduce and move and those that horrify. I believe that finding the right mix means the difference between entertaining people and moving them to action.
A carefully edited mix of images, woven into a compelling story, can show both the beauty of what we stand to lose as well as the devastation that our planet’s ecosystems are enduring all around the world. Most importantly, if we do our jobs right, photography can help us connect the dots to show the impacts that this loss has on human societies, and especially on the most vulnerable among us.
The ways in which the iLCP membership continues to expand and evolve, is a clear reflection of this philosophy. Although we will always need to rely on beautiful imagery to win and maintain the attention of our audience, we are also committed to working with photographers who focus their efforts on serious photojournalism. Perhaps the most important aspect of our work, is that regardless of whether images are beautiful or disturbing, they should be truthful and compelling. Our most valuable currency continues to be credibility; the perception by the public that what we are showing is a true reflection of reality.
Creating beautiful images that depict some of the most devastating and tragic losses our planet’s ecosystems are suffering is the ideal that compels the work of conservation photographers; succeeding in propelling law-makers, donors, government officials, corporations and society at large, is our ultimate mission.
Drawing form 36 years of international travel, Art will delve into a vast range of subjects; from discovering the subject to elements of design and even new works such as time lapses. Imagery of nature, wildlife and the world’s varied landscapes will round out the curriculum to provide the most comprehensive and imaginitave class available. For more information visit our workshop website. Don’t delay, our first two events in Toronto, Canada – May 20 and New York, NY – May 22 are filling fast.