Thoughts on Photography

Seriously Impressed with NIKON D3100 Low-Light Capabilities

AVICENNA & ELISAR

AVICENNA & ELISAR

Photo Details:

LOW Light capabilities of the NIKON D3100.
1/15 sec. @ f/2.8 @ ISO3200, and taken inside with shades closed on cloudy day, in a dark room – NO Flash.

I have not written much lately – just haven’t felt like it.

However, I wanted to share this photo with you (whoever is so kind to visit my blog), to show how capable the NIKON D3100 camera is.

I have never been one to buy into the price of a camera equals the “Photography Skill Level” marketing B%&^-Sh%$ that the camera companies have forced down consumers’s throats.

Not very many things irk me too much, but when I hear this such-and-such camera model is ‘entry-level’ and that one is ‘pro-level’, I kind of want to write notes to people at the camera companies and give my 2-cents worth.  WHEN did the price of a camera designate the skill level of a particular photographer?  I must have missed something…somewhere…

In my mind, someone with a Canon 5D Mark II or Nikon D3x can take ‘crap-photos’ just as easily as someone with a lower cost camera.  The photograph quality is based on the skill of the photographer behind the camera, not exclusively the camera.  In fact, a Pro or Pro/Am Photographer should respectively be able to make a really decent photograph with almost any camera that is placed in their hands.

The biggest differences between the various levels of cameras, based on price, are probably better durability, sometimes weight, and a few extra bells-and-whistles.  Of course, if you plan to shoot in really rough terrain or a war-zone, then by all means, go for something with a metal body.

If photographers are labeled based on the type of camera they like, or wish to use, then damn-it-all:  I guess after taking photographs since I was 12 years old (approx), which has been 33 years now, I guess I have demoted myself to an ‘entry-level’ photographer.  That kind of sucks!  Oh Well.  I don’t mind it too much:  I know who I am and what I am capable of (skill-wise) as a photographer.

I like my NIKON D3100 a lot – Most of the time I shoot in the MIGHTY-‘M’ Mode anyway.  I also use a CANON 420EX Speedlite triggered remotely with my NIKON – AND I KNOW THAT HAS GOT TO BE SOME KIND OF MAJOR SIN!

And, I still use my CANON POWERSHOT A620 for candid street photography.  It’s old, 6 or 7 years old, but it still works GREAT!

But, what do I know…

Do I sound a wee tad-bit cranky today?

Well, here is another shot I took with my D3100 – a tricky photograph to say the least.  Sometimes, the shots that seem straightforward are nothing but difficult to make.  To get this shot so that the flames (which are blue) to show up properly, you really need to have a near exact combination of ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed, White Balance, Color Gel and acceptable Background Material.  And, a steady hand to hold the lighter.

HONEST Brand Lighter - Double Flame Still Life

HONEST Brand Lighter - Double Flame Still Life

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Paul Bader Photography Interview

The Paul Bader Photography Interview:

Paul Bader Photography:  His Photography Story.

*** Because WordPress will not allow the Audio Podcast to be embedded here (e.g., it keeps getting deleted after each “Save Draft”), you will need to go to this SPECIAL PAGE, to Start the Audio Podcast, AND THEN, you can see the photographs below.  Sorry you have to jump around to get the audio interview started; but for now this is the only way I can do this operation. ***

Paul & Rita Bader

Paul & Rita Bader

Paul Bader

Paul Bader

Left Side - Robert & Otto Bader, Vernon Dankenbring, and Paul Bader, 1942

Left Side - Robert & Otto Bader, Vernon Dankenbring, and Paul Bader, 1942

Paul and brother Robert Bader, 1947

Paul and brother Robert Bader, 1947

Paul and brother Otto Bader.

Paul and brother Otto Bader.

PAUL BADER PHOTOGRAPHS:

Cowboy with Cigarette, by Paul Bader

Cowboy with Cigarette, by Paul Bader

DARK EYES, by Paul Bader.

DARK EYES, by Paul Bader.

Fun with Beer Foam, by Paul Bader.

Fun with Beer Foam, by Paul Bader.

MACHINIST, by Paul Bader.

MACHINIST, by Paul Bader.

Man at the Controls, by Paul Bader.

Man at the Controls, by Paul Bader.

Portrait of Girl with Ball, by Paul Bader.

Portrait of Girl with Ball, by Paul Bader.

BEHIND THE SCENES:  The ‘Elbow Grease’ Behind Getting this Podcast and the Photos Published Here!

Paul Bader is my Great Uncle.  He had a long career as a Professional Photographer, creating wonderful portrait and wedding photography.  He was also an accomplished Pet Portrait Photographer, and I think seeing his Pet Portraits as a kid is where I developed an eye for creating my Cat Portraits.  He is a longtime resident of Valentine, Nebraska, which is where he did much of his work as a Professional Photographer.

Currently, Paul is very active as a musician and singer.  His music style is country, very ‘cowboy’ish’ and folksy.  I hope I did justice in describing his music style.  He and my cousin Rhonda, sing and play music together.  In fact, the first part of this audio-cast is a song sung by Paul and Rhonda, and it is probably very familiar to many:  “Summertime Blues,” by Eddie Cochran.  The version I was most familiar with was by The Who.  Paul and Rhonda have given this popular tune their own special twist and sound – they have ‘made it theirs‘ with this rendition.

I would say that Uncle Paul was probably my first influence in the world of Photography.  Maybe I didn’t fully realize the good influence he was at the time, as a kid.  At my late Grandmother’s house in Lincoln, I would always see, and be amazed at the photographs and portraits my Grandmother had on the walls in her home that Uncle Paul had taken.  The seeds of Photography were probably planted in my brain because of being exposed to Uncle Paul’s Photography.  And in addition, the freedom of artistic expression was reinforced by my late Grandmother, who loved to paint.  Photography and Painting:  What a wonderful combination!

The Process of Getting this “Project” Done:

This whole interview project has been in the-works for some time, and it took quite a bit of effort to put it together.

This project all started because I wanted to document my Great Uncle’s Photography Career.  And, being an avid listener of the Brooks Jensen Podcasts (Founder of LensWork Magazine), I learned from one of Brooks’ podcast episodes about the merits of capturing peoples’ stories with audio recording.  So, thank you Brooks, for the idea.

Keep in mind, the distance between Penang and Valentine is around 9,100 miles, and a lot of the work on this project was done by regular post

What's that?  You know...stamps, envelopes, etc.

Let’s see, where was I…

Oh yes…I drafted a number of interview questions regarding Paul’s photography career for which I was curious about.  I sent the questions by email to my Mom, who forwarded the questions to Uncle Paul.  Uncle Paul recorded his answers to my questions on audio cassette tape.  A set of tapes were mailed to my Mom, and she made tape-to-tape copies.

After she was done making copy-tapes, she mailed the cassette tapes to me…the copy-tapes.  Unfortunately, the quality of the audio is instantly reduced at the copy level.  However, no worries, we can deal with that.

When I received the cassettes, I had the next level of copying technology to deal with:  Grabbing the audio from the analog cassette tapes and transferring that audio to some kind of digital format.

Thus, I bought a Panasonic cassette recorder/player, and also an analog-to-digital cable:  One plug of the cable goes into the Panasonic Player’s earphone jack and the other plug goes into the computer’s microphone jack.

I used Audacity Software to make the first recording.

The resulting file was HUGE:  The saved interview digital file was in the 160MB range.  The new digital file was TOO BIG for a Podcast style file.

I originally wanted to create an mpeg4 movie showing Uncle Paul’s photographs and running the audio interview at the same time, and that was not working well either, because the mpeg4 file size ended up being 260MB.

My luck was getting worse with each rendition of the interview.

I had to put the project on hold for a while to think out the problems I was facing.  I wouldn’t be able to do the mpeg4 movie, that fact was clear.  So, after a couple, maybe three weeks or more, I came back to the project to reconsider other options.

One other audio issue I had to work with was that the sound/quality level of the song is different than the interview file, and two files make up this single Podcast file.  This is due to my novice-talent working with audio files.  But it was a problem I had to deal with.   I attempted to ‘amplify ‘the song part of the file, just a little (by 1.7 dB), and I think it raised the song volume as I anticipated it would.  The interview part has better sound volume, so that is why the song needed the boost.

Besides the audio portion of this project, there is also the photographs portion.  I needed to get photograph samples from Uncle Paul to make the project complete.

Uncle Paul and my cousin Tim worked on taking digital photos of the originals prints, and this, I know, can be a challenging task.  When the digital shots of the original prints were completed, the digital files were sent to me by email.

To bring back some of the luster to the photographs, I worked on several of the photographs using my preferred software program for editing, Paint Shop Pro.

Therefore, the images seen in this blog entry were minimally edited:  I adjusted the Histogram Levels, a bit of adjustment in the Contrast, and I used the Clarify Tool adjustment to give some punch to the edited photographs.  I wanted to revive the prints without changing the interpretation too much.  My goal was to bring out the rich black, and to boost the mid and high tones in the photographs.  I hope my recent digital adjustments come close to the original prints looks from when they were first created in the darkroom.

BACK TO THE AUDIO PART:

Now…

If you use GOM Player or some other audio playing software with Equalizer Options, then move the 6K and 3K levels way up and that brings out the voice more clearly.  Move the 12K, 16K and 24K levels down near midway, to reduce high level noise.   Sorry for the need to adjust levels, but I’m not an audio expert – I’m just doing the best I can with the know-how I have on audio.

It took quite a little fiddling around, but I finally got the audio file to the size of 34MB (roughly), and I’m not messing with it any more.

The FINAL step before putting this Blog Entry together was finding an archive site online where I could upload my audio podcast file for eternity.  I did this at a site called, ourmedia.org.

In this audio interview, Paul discusses some important aspects of his career, the learning process of being a Photographer, and the challenges he faced living a ‘Photographic Life.’

Main Interview Topics:

  1. Early Artistic Endeavors – Commercial Art.
  2. Early Photography Training with Hattie Joy.
  3. Drafted into the Service (Marine Corp.) & Photography.
  4. 1952 Married Life and Farming in Kansas – Back into Photography.
  5. First Studio in an Abandoned Cream Station.
  6. Work in North Platte for Photographer, Earl Herana:  Learned how to be efficient – Every movement counted.
  7. Worked in Grand Island for another studio doing mainly darkroom print work.
  8. Photographing babies.
  9. Photographing Portraits, Senior School Photos and Weddings.
  10. Using the 8 x 10 Camera with Flash Bulbs!
  11. Changed to Speedgraphic 4 x 5 Camera.
  12. Conversion to Roll Film and Strobe Lighting for Speed.
  13. Lots of Wedding Work, PLUS, Selling Vacuum Cleaners!
  14. Winning Prizes for Photography.
  15. Pet Photography and “Tricks” to Get Good Shots.
  16. Getting burned out a little on Photography – Trying Life Insurance Sales.
  17. Purchase studio in Valentine, Nebraska.
  18. Push into Color Photography and Experimental Techniques (Double Exposures).
  19. Studio Fire Story.
  20. 1987, decided to sell the studio.
  21. Advice for Photographers:  It’s not a 9-to-5 Job!  Give it your all!
  22. Spends time now making and playing music.

I hope you enjoyed seeing the family photos of Paul Bader (and Brothers); as well as, seeing some of his prize-winning photography; and hearing his music & his story about being a Professional Photographer.

The Paul Bader Audio Interview – Just CLICK HERE!

Trade Secrets & Photography

Trade Secrets and Photography.

A Trade secret is a process or device for continuous use in the operations of the business. Generally it relates to the production of goods, as, for example, a machine or formula for the production of an article. It may, however, relate to the sale of goods or to other operations in the business

I would say that I’m a giving person and often think of others when reconciling my actions and how it may affect other people in the process.

I am also very willing to teach and show other photographers, tips and techniques on how to take photographs; or, how to improve their photography.  I do not mind doing this, and in fact, I enjoy teaching other people things about Photography that they need help with.

However, there are some techniques that I have spent many long hours, 4AM mornings, sometimes months or even years of practicing these techniques to improve my skills and utilize in my art photography.  With some of these techniques, I feel, that these techniques are more in lines with what I consider, “trade secrets” – these techniques are secrets of my trade.

If strategies of sale of goods can be a trade secret, then so can my techniques used to create certain art photographs.  I should not need to feel guilty about wanting to keep a few of these techniques, all to myself…FOR NOW.

Do you keep certain business techniques and strategies to yourself?  Are you bound, perhaps, by your company to keep secrets about production and research.  OK, then you know kind of what I’m talking about, although I’m specifically talking about photography, not the production of say, hard-disk drives.

In a recent discussion with other photographers, I mentioned that I like to share information and techniques I know about photography.  However, I said, there are some things I keep to myself.  Others (among us creatives), prefer to share everything about their skill with other photographers. For me, this is fine too. But, my personal feeling is that I need to keep a part of me, and that includes some of my photography techniques, for myself: This helps me identify “self” – Who I am!

I don’t want carbon copies of me. I prefer to share information, as much as I can, but not everything. And then, the “students” will develop a style or techniques of their own. My instruction can be a launching pad for students to forge their own directions with photography.

Trade Secrets, yes, they apply, in my opinion, to all forms of business, including those belonging to Photographers and their methods of Photography. In fact, I feel that holding a few things back can help students think and work out problems that will help them wander “out there”, and in the process, creating their own paths and experiences with Photography.

Good luck everyone, and always be open to learning and adjusting, recalculating your thinking if and when necessary.

=========

Photography and Arthritis

Photography & Arthritis

Photography & Arthritis:  There’s got to be a link.  No, no, not a medical link…Don’t think I’m that totally crazy to suggest that sort of thing, LOLOL! ;^} )
I’m talking about a link (the CHALLENGE of) between HAVING Arthritis, and, DOING Photography.

It’s quite difficult sometimes to even think about doing photography when I’m feeling pain from my arthritis.  Nevertheless, the overwhelming drive to be creative…and to be a CREATIVE in the face-of-pain, is what makes even the “Arthritic Photographer” sally forth in the quest to pursue and to capture a tremendous capture.

Click HERE, to see the rest of the blog entry.

Changes of Development and The Times

Changes of development are applied to control the total contrast range of the negative, but a side effect is that the ‘local contrast’ within low and middle values is affected.  Most surfaces include lighter and darker components that we perceive as texture, and while these textural variations may all lie within a range of one or two zones, they will be reinforced or weakened by modified development.”
~ Ansel Adams ~

That bit of advice would have been extremely significant to the film photographers, ‘back in the day.’  Nowadays, I reckon that most digital photographers wouldn’t have ‘clue-one’ about what Adams is talking about.  And why should digital photographers even care: With a touch of a button or two, the digital brains of the new technology takes instant-fantastic’o-well-exposed snap-shots.  Hardly any thinking required.

Oh well, it is fruitless to fight the future.  It is so much easier to go with the flow.

Yes, indeed.  There are a lot ( a ‘gajahbillion‘ ) of happy snap-shooters out there.  Are there a huge number of photographers taking technically great photographs that are unique and interesting:  probably not…I don’t see it.  Seems like the more digital cameras there are out there in the market the more sameness there is.

One thing that seems certain is that with all the photo-sharing sites out there, vainglory is at an all time high.  I wonder if anyone is worried about that, considering it was one of the eight original sins, but then it was all lumped into ‘pride’, so the eight became seven (at least that is what I learned from a show on the History Channel).  Everyone seems to love their photos to be oooo’ed and awww’ed over at these sites.

I’m just wondering…what is the point?  Ego?  Vainglory?  Pride?  Or, is it just a matter of self-advertisement, self-promotion.  Or, all of the above.

Do you hear it?  Listen…The hamster wheel of progress goes on, doesn’t it, but at what expense?  Is there an expense?

I think it is just one of those days…

To Specialize or Not to Specialize

‘To Specialize or Not to Specialize’, ah, that is the question. Well, it really isn’t the question, but it is something to ponder…I guess.

National Geographic photographer, James Stanfield said: “Early in my career I made up my mind not to specialize in any particular kind of photography. Some assignments were more appealing than others.” I really like Stanfield’s work, and he is skilled enough to be able to be flexible and shoot many types of subjects with excellence.

I like the idea of being the photographer of “Blah” (you can fill in the specific subject in place of “Blah”). However, when I look through my personal photo archives, I see that I’m not really a “photographer of ‘Blah'”, but rather, a photographer of many subjects…but not all subjects.

Is this good? Is this bad? Is it hard to pinpoint what you do when you DON’T just shoot “Blah”? Could be.

If someone asks you: “Do you shoot X and Y?” You know you shoot Y pretty good, but you don’t have a history of shooting X. Will this damage your chances of getting work when this happens? Or, do you just say “Hell-ya! I shoot X and Y!”; and then, hope for the best. Or, do you say, “I shoot Y, but X…we can experiment!”

For me, that seems, well, not quite right, but it could work.

Portfolio Web Pages…these are good indicators of what a photographer shoots. A potential client can look at your work, see what you have a history of shooting, and then have a good idea of what you photograph. In this case, if a viewer sees that you have pages of Animal and Wildlife subjects, then why bother asking you, “Do you shoot weddings?” Does this method of showing work by way of web portfolios seem logical? I’m guessing that it does, but I could be wrong. There are still times when photographers get “interesting” / “odd” / “ridiculous” questions anyway, even when we attempt to be as clear about things as possible.

Anyway, I have set up a photography journal here at wordpress, entitled ‘photographist’, and this is where I am publishing more specific subject groups of what I have photographed the most. If nothing else, maybe this effort will help me stay focused and organized regarding my work.

SUPER RED HOT M&M!

SUPER HOT RED M&M, v1, Edit J-btl3

TITLE: “Super Red HOT M&M!”
GENRE: STUDIO STILL LIFE
CREATION DATE: 03 DEC 08
ARTIST / PHOTOGRAPHER: NAWFAL NUR
COMPANY: NAWFAL NUR PHOTOGRAPHY
OWNERSHIP: NAWFAL NUR
RIGHTS: ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

PHOTO DESCRIPTION: A single, red MINI M&M (about 50% smaller than normal M&M’s), sitting atop a tablespoon full of VERY, VERY, VERY BURNING HOT Vietnamese Chilies. You can see how small they are, but so very potent. The good thing about these chilies is that you can eat them raw like this and they don’t have very many seeds! ;^) HOWEVER, they will make your teeth melt!!! LOLOL!!! I like to put these in Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice).

TECHNICAL DETAILS:

CAMERA: CANON POWERSHOT A620.
LIGHTING: METZ 32 Z2 STROBE (HAND HELD).
DIFFUSER: TESCO (LOLOL) HUGE SALAD BOWL.
SUPPORT: bogen 3001 Professional Tripod, bogen 3025 Head, and MANFROTTO #352 Ball & Socket Head.

SOFTWARE: PHOTOIMPACT X3.

PHOTO NOTES: I wanted to create an image with extreme subjects: The chilies are SUPER HOT; and, the Single M&M is SUPER SWEET. And, I wanted to get in really close to show how small these tiny chilies are. Also, I wanted to capture a still life with complementary color matching: Shades of green and red.

Side Note: MINI M&M’s taste NO DIFFERENT than regular sized M&M’s! Hahahahahahaha!!!!

BLADE BLUE HAND-667, No.1, Edit F

Blade Blue Hand, 667, No.1, Edit F, by Nawfal Nur

Blade Blue Hand, 667, No.1, Edit F, by Nawfal Nur

Title: “BLADE BLUE HAND, 667, No.1, Edit F”
Series: “BLUE HAND”
Number in Series: No. 1.
Genre: Abstract-Geometric-Expressionism
Mediums: Painting & Photography

Painter: Nawfal Nur
Photographer: Nawfal Nur
Art Direction: Nawfal Nur
Model: Nawfal Nur

Investment in Time:
* Prep Time for Equipment Set up: 1/2 Hour.
** Painting: 5 1/2 Hours.
*** Photography: 1/2 Hour.
**** Clean-up: 1 Hour.

Paint Supplies Used:
-1- Schmincke PRIMAcryl (Feinste Künstler-Acrylfarben).
-2- ZIG – KURECOLOR Permanent Alcohol based Ink.
-3- BUNCHO Water Colors.
-4- ALBRECHT DÜRER, Watercolour Pencils by FABER-CASTELL (8200 Series).
-5- Crayola “Brush Tips” Markers.
-6- Artline 70 High Performance Markers.
-7- MonAmi ACCU Liner Permanent Markers (Metallic Series).
-8- Pentel Permanent Markers (N850 Series).
-9- ESTĒE LAUDER Artist’s Eye Pencil – (01 SOFTSMUDGE BLACK).
-10- ESTĒE LAUDER Artist’s Lip Pencil-Crayon – (08 SPICE WRITER).

Camera:
CANON Powershot A620 with Modified Internal Flash Bounce Attachment. Aperture @ f/8.0 and Shutter Speed @ 1/80 sec. (I think…) ;^)

Lighting:
One 600-WATT SYSTEMS IMAGING Studio Flash with 2′ x 2′ BOWENS Softbox. MIRA Hydraulic Light Stands. Modeling on Cont., Power @ 1/16th Output. Distance to Subject, approx., 3-feet.

Additional Lighting or Lighting Aid Gear:
One 3′ x 3′ White Foam core bounce.

Support:
* bogen 3001 Professional Tripod.
** bogen 3025 head.
*** Manfrotto #352 Ball & Socket.
**** 3kg weight.

Computer Software:
* PhotoImpact X3.
————————-
As I mentioned in the text of the photo above, this will be my last photo addition to my Photostream at Flickr.

I have made a promise (to myself) to keep the “F-DEPRESSION” Series Images as close to the TOP of my Photostream as possible. Because with each new image addition, the older images get pushed deeper and deeper into the photostream. And that means, that these “F-DEPRESSION” photographs would eventually get lost in the masses of photos.

The ONLY way these images may help someone who is suffering from Depression, Anxiety or Chronic Pain is to see them, feel the shock value, read the text and GET HELP!!! And, that was the main reason I ventured into this very negative and self-expressing Photo & Text Series.

One of the key components of this type of work (body art), and one that I experienced firsthand, is that IT (the artwork) IS NOT LASTING!

Paint – Photograph – Wash – Rinse – Repeat the Wash & Rinse. Then, the painting is gone for ever! The final product, the actual artpiece is the Body Painted Photograph Portrait: The photograph – that is the lasting art work. The Painting is just part of the preparation! Get it!

This is NOT Airbrush, so the artwork is NOT smooth or finely detailed. I used Acrylic and Watercolours, along with Art Markers and applied them normally, and also with brush and artist’s knife. Some parts of the artwork are smooth and other textured. As the paints dry, the work cracks, so speed is important.

It was extremely painful for me to stand for that length of time – the arthritic A.S. types like myself usually can’t sit-stand-walk-or lie down for very long periods. However, I had to see if I could do it. After the completion of this work, it felt like someone had tortured me (kind of), like someone had been hitting the bottom of my feet with a metal ruler. If you have A.S., you may know that feeling: It’s No fun!!!

5 and 1/2 hours for one Right Arm! It’s the first work like this I’ve done. And, I can say that it was a really good experience and quite interesting to attempt painting oneself and working the camera. Strange feeling!

FROM NOW ON, PLEASE VISIT ME AT:

“BEHIND THE LENS!” (My Photography Journal where I’ve been writing, and where I’ve been exhibiting my Photography, since 2005).

smokephotographist.wordpress.com/

Nawfal Nur
“Behind the Lens!”
smokephotographist.wordpress.com/
27 Nov 2008

PS: “667” refers to what I ‘have seen’ termed as, “Neighbor of the Beast!” HOWEVER, my interpretation is different than probably the person who thought up this novel saying. Here’s how I see it:

“This world is Where the Wicked NEVER Rest, and the Righteous Struggle to just Stand their Ground!” Therefore, I am a ‘neighbor of the beast’ – evil that surrounds us all, daily – it is there, you don’t have to go far to find it.

Of course, perhaps it is much better to pretend that the world is a perfect place, so that you can sleep well at night, but this is just what people who don’t do anything to change it, want you to believe! Or, perhaps, it is what people who have it “made” want others to believe because they have all the resources available to them to ‘escape’ most of the evil that perpetuates itself daily, and around the world.

All you have to do is pick up a newspaper: There must be a lot of “evil” out there, or, the newspapers would NOT be so thick! News of Disasters, Crimes, Chaos, wars, famine, cruelty, and Injustice…this shit sells the News! I STOPPED reading the news a couple of years ago because it just perpetuates in a bad way, whatever stuff you got going on, that isn’t so good.

It is time to go…

Good night Moon!

Good night People!

pss: BTW: The “667” tattoo, I designed by computer software, but I may just have to ink myself with it one of these days!

Opportunities & Preparedness…

Yellow Line, by Nawfal Nur, All Rights Reserved

“Yellow Line”
From the “Distinctive Georgetown” Portfolio
Bishop Street, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
© 2008 Nawfal Nur
All Rights Reserved

Opportunities & Preparedness…

Always being prepared, having your camera with you, actively seeking out photographs with your eyes wide open, and seeing things differently are some of the major keys to taking better, and more interesting photographs.

Earl Nightingale said many things that I always want to strive for, and here are a few snippets of those things:  ‘Study and Prepare Yourself…Your mind is your richest resource…Look at your work with NEW Eyes…Serve the customer better than anyone else serves the customer…

Earl also said:  “We become what we think about.”

J.B. Matthews wrote:  “Unless a person has trained himself for his chance, the chance will only make him rediculous, a great occasion is worth to a man exactly what his preparation enables him to make of it.”  I’m sure that Mr. Matthews meant all people in his statement (as Earl N., mentioned), and Matthews’ statement is indeed, very profound, and very humbling.     

This is why knowing as much about your field, whether it is photography, or computer science, or WHATEVER, that you are a first-class professional in your chosen field.  Also, that you are constantly educating yourself about your profession, keeping up with the times and surpassing your competition.

Special Note:  See…I wasn’t prepared just now, I lost all my tags and categories for some strange reason…I should have saved all first.  Even when you think you are ready, you may not be ready.

The following video link is of one of my favorite guitarists, and perhaps, one of the best guitarists in the world (at this point in time).  The video was not recorded in a studio, but rather, at the NAMM show/exhibition, so the audio quality is a bit off, but if you listen to the playing and observe the technique, you will soon see why I believe Jeff Loomis, of the band NEVERMORE, is one of the best players around.  I have mainly put this video up here, to demonstrate someone in the field of music, who I believe is a first-class, prepared, professional.  You can substitute anyone of your choice in this type of exercise.  Pick someone you know is skilled in their field, it can be your field or another one.  Just watching someone who is at the top of their game, pushes you a little (or a lot) more, to improve yourself.

 

 

Being the Unseen Photographer: Lessons from Dorothea Lange.

Dorothea Lange Taylor (b.1895 – d. 1965), was an incredible documentary photographer best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA), and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, she did work for the War Relocation Authority (WRA).. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothea_Lange).

I’m currently reading an interview Dorothea did with Suzanne Riess, conducted during the later part of Dorothea’s life, as she struggled with cancer. The interview was done for the Regional Oral History Office, University of California, Berkeley. The interviews took place between October 1960 and August 1961.

Before delving into this interview manuscript, I knew very little about Dorothea Lange, but as I read more and more of the interaction between her and the Interviewer, I see that she was thoughtful, high-spirited with her ideas and opinions, and she had a strong foundation under her feet, growing up in Hoboken and overcoming many difficult obstacles in her life.

When discussing her grandmother and family, who were German immigrants, she said: “In fact I always had a kind of a feeling of ‘What kind of people could these people have been that they came on a ship and then plomped themselves down, right there?’ I mean they didn’t have the gumption to go to Cincinnati or Milwaukee or Chicago. They just stayed right there in Hoboken. They must have been dying to go back! Well, they were pretty spirited people, and they didn’t.” (“Dorothea Lange: THE MAKING OF A DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER” [1968], p.3).

I thought that was highly entertaining as I am also of German immigrant ancestry. It was my Grandmother’s family (my mother’s mother), who were Germans, but they were Germans from Russia: Bessarabian Germans. They came to America and entered through the immigration station in Galveston, TX. My Grandmother was 2-years old when her family immigrated to America, and they ended up “plomping” down in St. Francis, Kansas, and then later moved to Lincoln, Nebraska – a far cry from Hoboken.

The main point of this entry, however, is regarding an observation Dorothea Lange made about a skill she acquired as a child and how it helped her later on as a Photographer.

She mentioned that there were two nights a week that she had to walk home alone from her mother’s workplace. Dorothea’s father abandoned the family, so Dorothea’s mother supported the family. She worked as librarian at the New York Public Library on East Broadway in New York. After school, Dorothea went to the library and read books; she called the Library her ‘day home‘.

She was supposed to be studying in the staff room while her mother was working, but instead, she said she read all the books. Makes sense, you’re in a library with a world of knowledge at your fingertips. Forget about the homework and get to the interesting works of literature, right! ;^)

It appears that it was during this time of her life that she took a keen interest in “observing” – especially the people and the neighborhoods that surrounded the library and the route to her home. She said that she was the only “gentile” in a Jewish school: “I could look into all these lives. All of a tradition and a race alien to myself, completely alien, but I watched…I’m aware that I just looked at everything. I can remember the smell of the cooking too, the way they lived. Oh, I had good looks at that, but never set foot myself. Something like a photographic observer. I can see it.” (Id. at 15).

On those two days of the week when her mother worked evenings, Dorothea had to walk home and traverse the wild and dangerous streets of New York by herself, to get back to her home in Hoboken – a rather tough journey for a grade schooler.

In her words, here is her recollection of her journey home, and a skill she learned that no doubt helped make her the great Documentary Photographer that she became:

I went home generally about five o’clock. Now the scenery changes, because I had to walk from Chatham Square to the Christopher Street Ferry, and that’s a walk along the Bowery. And that Bowery suddenly ended at City Hall. There I walked across the park over to Barclay or Christopher Street where that was still another neighborhood.

But there were three worlds there that I had a very intimate acquaintance with, and that Bowery part (I remember how afraid I was each time, never without fear), I thought of it recently when I was in Asia, quite often, because in Asia there are places where you have to look where you step because the sidewalks are unspeakably filthy and you never take it for granted where you walk. Well, on the Bowery I knew how to step over drunken men. I had to do it, you know, and I don’t mean that the streets were littered with drunken men, but it was a very common affair. I knew how to keep an expression of face that would draw no attention, so no one would look at me. I have used that my whole life in photographing. I can turn it on and off. If I don’t want anybody to see me I can make the kind of a face so eyes go off me. Do you know what I mean? There’s a self-protective thing you can do. I learned that as a child in the Bowery. So none of these drunks’ eyes would light on me. I was never obviously there. And you can see what equipment that was for anyone who later found herself doing the kind of work I do, or maybe it took me into it.” (Id. at 15 and 16).

And then she goes on and says that she did all of this as a physically disabled kid: A result of having Polio as a child. She always walked with a limp.

Dorothea Lange was a really amazing person. I find it totally fascinating her keen sense of observation and the skill of being “Unseen” helped her tremendously, later on, as a Documentary Photographer. It became, as she recalled, “equipment” so she could more easily enter the lives of strangers and photograph them.

Dancer,smallerAs I read more of the interview with Dorothea Lange, I may mention other interesting points that can help us to become better Photographers. Perhaps being more understanding, more compassionate and more observing without being seen, are the true keys to great Documentary and Street Photography.

I know I can learn a lot from Dorothea Lange’s wisdoms on photography. The closest thing I see myself doing in regard to being ‘unseen‘ is when taking performing arts photography. I know from experience, that it is best to stay as inconspicuous as possible – that’s when the best shots develop.

 

“Dancer”
2001
Photography by Nawfal Nur