That's what happens when you start to read a book :o) It starts you thinking and you hopefully take out the best bits and take on board lots of useful advice. Hopefully you read the relevant chapter/s before you embark on a project but it's never too late to learn more that you can apply next time.
Taking some time out from taking photos I dived into "On Being a Photographer"* again, this time reading the chapter about shooting the single picture. Most of the information echos the advice given in most magazines and by photography tutors but I do love the chat style of this book, the conversations between Bill Jay and David Hurn makes you feel like you are a casual observer listening into a fascinating debate.
So what have they got to say? That the photographer should always keep in mind that 'there is a purpose to the picture...to reveal the chosen aspect of the subject....to clarify its essence' and ultimately produce 'a visually interesting picture.' (p37)
The way to achieve this? Of course the two basic fundamentals of postion and timing, but added to this the taking of many frames of the same subject slightly varying the angle and position. Hurn states that a fine photographer will admit doubt thinking 'I am willing to admit that many little subtleties of camera position, which I can not pre-see, might make the difference between an adequate image and a good one.' (p38)
I don't profess to be a fine photographer but I have taken on board these ideas and must admit that by taking many shots and really taking note of the important elements I find one that works better than the others when reviewing the images either on a contact sheet or in Bridge. The difference may only be subtle but it can make or break a shot. It is often the case that 'you never know if the next fraction of a second is going to reveal an even more significant, poignant, visually stronger image than the previous one.' (p39)
What helps is, as said before, narrowing down the subject, even when you have narrowed it down to one topic that too can have sub-categories. Make up your mind what it is you wish to capture and that will help focus your attention onto the potential subject to the exclusion of others. Shooting either static or moving subjects the same rules will apply to a certain extent, obviously with the moving you will have less control of positioning and all the other variables and elements that help create the 'perfect' shot. Even Hurn admits that these elements do not always fall into place 'but we keep trying.' (p41)
Ok so we start thinking about timing and position, juggling the elements, I have to ask myself what happens with the careful composition? Or are too many images these days staged? All along similar lines? Nothing new to say? Rules are there to be broken but what if too many are and the resulting image just isn't at all pleasing? Once more Jay and Hurn cover this believing that good design is essential when 'design is the vehicle not the destination.....If the image is well designed you want to look at it; if poorly structured, you don't care about the image and, hence, the subject.' (p43)
An awful lot more is discussed with specific photographers of note mentioned such as Walker Evans, and Ansel Adams, apparently his iconic shot of Moon and Half Dome. Yosemite, was one of almost 10 identical exposures he made at the same time.
Jay asks how much is down to pure luck as compared to instinct sharpened by experience? The answer given? Ultimately a bit of both, but 'experience obviously helps - which is another reason to shoot lots of pictures.' (p46)
So there you go another wise truism that practice makes perfect....
*(Published by Lenswork Publishing. ISBN 1-888803-06-1 Third edition 2001)