This concept of “wide” is definitely how I tend to view the world – exaggerated, grand, slightly distorted, all encompassing, etc. – however, I’m pushing myself to simplify my work and will continue to evaluate these findings while shooting more and more with the Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 and Hasselblad Zeiss 80mm f/2.8. Needless to say, I love all of the examples above and it demonstrates that I’m capable of creating beautiful work across focal lengths.
4. Little to no planning – When I truly became serious about photography and about my work, I would also plan my shoot. And this might make more sense as a wedding photographer or a landscape photographer, but I’ve learned that, even with landscape, the less you plan the better your photographs. I still find myself looking through 500px, Flickr, or other sources of inspiration before visiting a location but no longer plan a “7:15pm sunset shoot at the pier” because I tend to get better photographs as a result of avoiding this planning, in turn I feel more creative in the moment, and mot importantly – I don’t have to watch my expectations crash and burn as those planned shoots never work out the way you intended them to.
5. Light Editing / Processing – This is pretty straightforward. As I mentioned when I first starting taking my work seriously, I over processed my photographs. It was bad, but a necessary lesson to learn. I continue to reduce the amount of editing by focusing on adjusting less significant portions of my image as well as making sure that when I shoot, I’m capturing my vision in the camera. Straight out of the camera vs. processing is an area I’ve been thinking about quite a bit and will definitely be talking more about this in the future. In the meantime, focusing less on “I’ll merge these photographs later” or “I’ll crop him/her out in Lightroom” and focusing more on slowing down and creating photographs within the camera will lead to stronger work and less time in post.
6. Aperture Priority – I’ve been shooting Aperture Priority the past two years and have grown to appreciate the creative flexibility it provides. To me, “A” or “Av” is a perfect balance of creative expression and letting the technology in the camera do some of the work for you. As I continue to grow, I’ve been leaning more towards full Manual “M” to help me create those photographs within the camera (see #5 Light Editing / Processing) as Aperture Priority sometimes makes a good enough decision but not the best decision. I see myself always using Aperture Priority for certain styles like Street which require fast reactions, but will most likely finally take the training wheels off and shoot full manual with my Sony A7ii and Hasselblad.
7. Created in the last 18 Months - I’m not going to spend too much time on this one given that our travel the past eighteen months has been out.of.control. We’ve travelled to Tokyo, Kyoto, Beijing, San Miguel de Allende, Napa Valley, Sonoma, Paris, Versailles, etc. Traveling like a crazy person allows for a fresh perspective on the world around you resulting in feeling incredibly creative, optimistic, and not to mention giving your camera plenty of new scenes to capture.
8. Preference for the most recent – I realize that as I continue to grow, I like my most recent images more and more. I’m assuming part of this is due to becoming a better overall photographer – by leveraging these learning’s I’m writing about, by taking greater risks, and by pushing myself out of my comfort zone – and the other part of this due to my evolving style aligning with my most recent photographs. Who knows, this one is a tough call for me but I felt it was important enough to note.
9. Balanced Exposure – Exposure is something I’m fascinated by. Not only because it’s the foundation of what makes up a photograph but also because it’s such a muddy area when it comes to technically correct exposure vs. creative exposure. There’s no right answer. Sure, there is a pixel-perfect value and exact histogram chart you can find on the web, but it ultimately comes down to subjective look and feel. I believe I started out underexposing, or even bracketing, my shots and walked my way all the way up to over-exposure to the point of being too hot.
I’ve found myself dialing it back down to somewhere between mid to slightly overexposed images in the sense of some highlight clippings. This is an area I’m incredibly excited to experiment more with when it comes to digital vs. film. For example, in digital photography I should be exposing my A7ii for the highlights to avoid clipping an arbitrary numeric value resulting in a more under-exposed looked where with my Hasselblad and color negative film photography, I should be metering for the shadows and overexposing by a stop of two (at least!) to avoid the muddy under exposed look and ensure my negatives are more dense and the resulting images more contrasty and saturated. Ironically, I find myself shooting my A7ii like I would a Hasselblad.
10, Golden Hour and/or Backlit – “it’s all about the light”, man did that make me roll my eyes a lot when I first started shooting. And while I don’t believe there is “bad light” or “light that you can’t shoot in”, I do believe there is better light. And those early morning, early evening, and dusk shots really help transform a good concept to a great photograph.
Based on my analysis, I plan to incorporate some changes to my day to day shooting and will continue to focus more on manual shooting. The two biggest areas of exploration for me coming out of all of this are exposure as well as the difference and similarities between digital and film photography. I touched on this re: Kodak vs. Fuji under color, but still have plenty to research and experience. With the recent addition of my beautiful Hasselblad 500 c/m medium format film camera (gifted to me by my amazing wife, Sam) I plan to dedicate a significant amount of time exploring these relationships between film and digital, exposure techniques, color profiles, and ranges vs. pixel values in the coming months.
Images in this post were taken with the Sony A7 Mark ii, Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA, Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA, Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4.0 ZA OOS, and Leica 24mm f/1.4 Summilux.