Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Stream: Control, and objective and subjective approaches in photography

I have been photographing big mountain rivers lately, heavy winter rains and massive flows - all very dramatic and exciting. The little stream that flows down the hill on my own property has been ignored, even if those same rains have it rushing down the slope just as fast as it can run, so the other rainy day I took a tripod and an umbrella to protect the camera and decided to experiment with slow shutter speeds. The tripod dealt with camera shake but the hassle with the umbrella seemed hardly worth it. I am glad I persevered however, the results were excellent and my camera remained ( mostly) dry.

Shot with a fast shutter speed.
 (Compared to the one above).

Hand held slow shutter.

Slow shutter on tripod

By taking control of the process, setting myself a technical challenge and then using my camera with specific intent and limiting myself to one subject and one technical problem to explore I was increasing my chances of success; this time photography was to be no casual stroll in the park snatching images on the run.

To obtain the necessary slow shutter speed I dropped the iso sensitivity to 100, closed the aperture to 20 and began to encompass .... click zzzzzz click.... a wider slice of time. The rushing waters were transformed into curtains and swirls just as I had expected. Now to play a little with less obvious watery subjects, the tree shadows on a flat, rain-pocked pond for instance. Here was the more interesting and unpredicted results from my camera set up, less dramatic but stranger. A step beyond. Where I do like to be!

Tree shadow on pond pocked by rain. Slow shutter.
These matters of more or less control and objective versus subjective are the meat of making or taking photographs. Being objective and having specific intentions: choosing my subject matter, controlling my camera settings to achieve a particular result and polishing them later in 'Lightroom' produced a predictable result. But when I used the same camera settings for subject matter that appealed to me in an intuitive, subjective way the results were unpredictable and poetic: open ended and creative with more potential for future work.

Control over the process is like a slider in your photo program, there should be no one set 'proper' position: as in our wider lives where the bounds between objective and subjective should be elastic and situation or subject related!

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