As a small child, I was always fascinated by the open-air wet market with the colourful food items, especially at night when the lights gave a special funfair kind of atmosphere to it. Those times when my Mum took me to the wet market were some of the best moments in my life. This picture captured what were my feelings through the joyful eyes of the little me then.
This is my unique perspective on the wet market at night. How would you reproduce your feelings for the place special to you?
Depending on the available light -- in this case not much of it -- the photographer is advised to tweak the shutter speed to between 1/3s and 1/10s which have been proven to give the blurred effect just right. Experiment with walking and hand swinging motions at different directions and paces for the desired result.
Almost all photographers have done this once at some point of time in their photographic endeavour: superimpose one subject over the other. Superimposition is an effective technique to present a theme, and to reveal the gist of the message; in this case, the illumination of the signboard is too bright for the residential building next to it.
I walked the scene, looking up and stopping at where the superimposition was just right to take the shot. Did I end up with a commonplace perspective? Maybe. But naughty is what I prefer to call it. And this perspective of mine works well for I have shown this image to several people, and they all spent longer time viewing this image than the rest.
It was a rather cold late afternoon when I walked past this beggar, and so did the other passers-by. There he was under the dimly lit footbridge, crouching and waiting fruitlessly for some coins. As the wind blew, the coldness tightened the grip on him, as well as on the passers-by who were so made to hurry home.
It immediately came to me that there was the photography opportunity, and the shot had to reproduce the atmosphere of loneliness. But how?
The passing crowds and the lonely beggar made a stark contrast. I hoped to take a picture of such a scene for the busyness could actually make manifest the loneliness. Contrast can highlight a theme. But the space was too tight for even the 28mm lens to include the subjects needed for the shot. I paused a bit and noticed the yellowish street light and the shadowy patterns on the wall.
At once, I biased the white balance to bluish-pink to balance out the yellow cast. More importantly, this also added a pinkish warm feel on the wall to contrast the somber tone of the beggar. The contrast was heightened by the composition to put the light source (the lamp), denoting hope, and the beggar, representing loneliness, on two corners connected by an invisible diagonal line -- the typical reading habit from right to left, the viewers' eyes will be naturally guided from hope (lamp) to loneliness (beggar). The light, the shadowy transition of the wall and finally the gloomy beggar with his darkened shadow all came together to bring out the theme of loneliness.
This is my unique point of view in reproducing the scene and the subjective atmosphere.
As a side note, I like the white balance correction function in Ricoh cameras a lot. But it seems that there is no way to register the tuned up WB to even the customisable slots. Curious.
In the film era, photographers were taught to practise seeing a scene through the viewfinder to become more skillful in doing the composition. If a camera is not at hand, use the thumbs and index fingers to do a makeshift "viewfinder", they were told. In the digital age, the LCD monitor takes the place of the viewfinder. But a viewfinder is preferred for the privilege of being not visually disturbed by the out-of-frame elements.
But whatever the viewing device is, the message is the same: to practise seeing a scene as a photographer. How? In a nutshell, search for the unique perspective of your own. Why? To reproduce something which may be commonplace but seems fresh to the viewers in the final image, which is the gist of photography.
And this is certainly also a factor in the art of seeing.
Some believes that photography is an art of seeing. The photographer sees a scene with his artistic mind through a camera and captures it by the strength of his photographic skills. The final image is then presented in front of the viewers for admiring from an aesthetic perspective. A scene has thus been reproduced and reinterpreted in the form of art -- primarily an art of seeing.
Undoubtedly, the success of such an art of seeing hinges on two factors, namely, the understanding of art and the understanding of visual elements. For the first factor, an aspirant photographer can learn from any genres of art including or excluding photography. Books, exhibitions and taking part in such genres can heighten one's sense in aesthetics. Occasionally, I will draw, for example. It enables me to see things differently. I shall show some works here when an opportunity comes.
For the second factor, learn from the masters' paintings, photographs and even movie productions. I go to the movies almost once weekly. Apart from really watching the movies, a question always arises in my mind following an intriguing shot on the big screen, "What's in the director's mind when he arranged for that shot?" There are many other effective ways to train your photographer's eye. Mimicking the masters' shots is one of them. Just don't stop at reading reviews. Take photos with your cameras (surely in plural).
"If San Francisco was his wife, the Yosemite was his mistress."
This is what the narrator in PBS's documentary "Ansel Adams", which I watched last night, says about how Ansel divided his years between his home in San Francisco and his pursuit in the Yosemite National Park, producing many truly intriguing images which speaks the beauty and power of nature. The documentary portraits Ansel from his childhood years to his old age, investigating the master's stories behind those great shots to be remembered many years after his decease.
This is definitely the kind of documentary worthy of the admission fee. Buy one. Or rent one. Enjoy yourselves!