An Early Clue to the New Direction

(First one to cite the source of the title quotation gets a free portrait)

I’ve blathered at length – on this blog and on facebook – about a new direction for my photography. The funny thing about this epiphany is that it feels like I just discovered something I’ve known for years.

Others noticed this weakness in my work. One of my early blog entries featured some dance photos, and my friend and mentor Mike Kichaven offered a terse comment: “See if they will let you get closer.”

When I followed Mike Kichaven's advice and moved closer to the dancers, I got a crash course in perspective, and my best dance images yet.

Last weekend, I photographed a couple of bands at a local club. During the opening act, I remained in my assigned seat and shot what I could. At the break, a friend of mine (and the mother of three of the evening’s performers) urged me to move around and get up close. “I don’t want to get in the way,” I said, gesturing toward the audience. “Get in the way!” She laughed above the house music. “Be the photographer.”

Be the photographer. Hmmm.

I used to think that if I didn't show the stage or a guitar, the viewer might not know the subject was a musician. Now I realize that even a small bit of guitar, or guitar strap, or microphone, or facial expression, can tell plenty of the story.

One of the most famous quotations about photography comes from war correspondent Robert Capa: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” The shy guy isn’t going to get the shot.

Naturally, all this talk about getting close made me think about Sex. I’m referring to Ken Rockwell’s essay about composition, which he distilled down to Simplification and Exclusion, or SEx.

As part of a photo essay - or even on its own - this tight, simple image tells its story well enough.

I know this stuff. I’ve known it for years. But over the past few weeks I’ve started doing it. Heh heh. I said, “doing it” while talking about SEx. (Have you ever noticed that many photographers are a little immature? I think it’s because the craft requires the hummingbird energy of a 12-year-old).

The point is that something startling happened when I paid more attention to filling the frame – my keeper rate increased!  The subject is clear, and that has not always been the case for me – it’s now easier to answer the question, “Why did I take this picture?”

Showing more of these two brothers would only dilute the image. With these little splashes of light and shadow, we see singing and playing, joy and concentration. I'm glad their mom encouraged me to move to the edge of the stage!


Filed under Composition, Dance and Theater, Professional vs. Amateur

3 responses to “An Early Clue to the New Direction

  1. Matt Dale

    The title is taken from a quote from the film A Hard Days Night.

  2. Tina Horton

    It’s from A Hard Day’s Night!

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