Uncommon Images from Common Circumstances

A bit on the thought process and more

I made this image yesterday and it was used large on the cover of the Boston Globe’s Metro section. I had previously called my office and asked my editors if they were looking for weather features for which I got a resounding Yes!

I’ve been around long enough as a newspaper photographer that I know weather is always considered to be “news” – especially, in New England where the weather patterns are so fickle.

So, I did what I always do when I’m looking for features and hoping to stumble upon something unusual: I got out of my car and walked.

Yesterday, I was already ahead of the curve because I happened to have just finished shooting an assignment near the Boston Common that is a favorite gathering spot for those enjoying the weather. This meant I didn’t have to go searching for a visually rich environment since I was already there.

However, there were so many people sun bathing or just simply lounging around that at first it was visual overload. The scene immediately reminded me of what a couple of my Boston University students recently said to me during a photo trip to Cuba: “There is so much going on I don’t even know where to begin or what to shoot!” No worries, this is a feeling commonly shared by beginner and seasoned photographers alike.

Instead of becoming overwhelmed:

  • You need to step back in your mind and assess what’s in front of you.
  • Compartmentalize what you see in segments and then assess them based upon what’s in them and for their photo potential and uniqueness.
  • Then you go back to a bit of circular logic: Why am I here: To make photos. And not just any photos but good, better than average photos, and hopefully even great photos.

If you don’t take the time to compose and capture interesting imagery you are not doing your job. What is your job? Your job as a visual communicator/documentarian is to:

  • See and document the world from a different perspective.
  • To see beyond what the average person sees.

Allegedly, we do what we do because we think we can see better than the rest. We need to strive to prove this to ourselves every single time we press the shutter. And, we will not succeed all the time, but if you make trying as hard as you can a common routine you are bound to get better at it.

And then others will start noticing that you indeed see better than they can.

Remember:

  • You want the reader to look at your images and to do a double take.
  • Your goal is to make them spend just a little more time looking and analyzing the images you create.
  • You want the viewer to spend just a bit more on your photos than the other thousands of other photos the average person gets exposed to on a daily basis.
  • You want to create images that move people and images that make people react one way or another.

This we achieve by choosing our subject matter, and then capturing moments, interactions, altering angles, perspectives and paying close attention to composition.

Going back to the above image:

  • Yes, we all have seen people lying face down with their feet up out in a park, on a bench, at the beach, etc. But if you photograph this scene from a standing point of view, then my friend you have just successfully managed to bore the living daylights out of your readers.
  • I strive not to do this by following this mantra every time I have a camera to my eye: “keep shooting, keep moving, keep adjusting…” These are interchangeable actions and their end result is that you force yourself not to take things face value but to go beyond what is in front of you.
  • And then I don’t stop shooting this subject or situation until I am satisfied that I have explored every possible permutation or possibility of the situation at hand.
  • Your images have to be interesting otherwise you are not doing your job and you are wasting people’s precious time.
  • The worst thing that can happen to you as a photographer is for your photos to be ignored.

Tech Stuff: ISO 100, WB sunny, Speed 1/640th, Aperture 2.8.